I remain as proud and privileged today, as I was on the first day in my role as the Commissioner of Police for the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force, as I welcome you to Police Week 2023.
(It is) a week to commemorate one of the oldest Police Forces in the world, a week to engage with our communities across a range of activities and a week to celebrate the success within the Force.
The last twelve months has been the most challenging period in the Force’s history with a surge in serious gang violence that threatened the very safety and security of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The scale of violence we faced as a country and as a Force was unprecedented and so serious that it threatened to destabilize the tourist industry and the future economy of the Islands.
In the middle of the surge in crime, one of our own was shot and seriously injured and two other colleagues were lucky to escape any physical injury. Despite this, we did not flinch, and the response of the Officers of the Royal Turks and Caicos was frankly astonishing.
All members of the Force responded with courage, fortitude, resilience and with a determination to deal with the threats we faced. To support us, colleagues from the Royal Bahamas Police Force came to the TCI to stand shoulder to shoulder with us, as brothers and sisters, to deal with those criminals who were murdering, shooting and terrorizing the Turks and Caicos Islands.
In late November, following an all-team effort, the main persons involved in these violent crimes had either fled the TCI, were deceased or were in custody and a sense of calm and safety once again was felt on the Turks and Caicos. The extraordinary effort continues into 2023 with significant charges for serious crime being laid against a number of people.
The Force remains resolute and committed to protecting these ‘beautiful by nature’ Turks and Caicos Islands during 2023 and beyond.
As the Commissioner of Police, I could not have been more proud of the response of the Force and the individuals within it; when times got hard, the Force got tough and determined in its response. I want to express once more how proud I am and how proud the community is of your efforts and to say thank you.
In addition to the surge in serious crime, the RTCIPF continues to face a number of maritime threats; people smuggling, drugs and firearms smuggling and illegal fishing. The whole region is seeing a surge in the movement of people in the maritime environment and the TCI is experiencing the same surge in numbers.
I, once again, find myself paying tribute to the men and women working on the Marine Branch and in our Maritime Operations Centre (Radar) who have been relentless and alert to the maritime threat. We owe much to the Teams for their often dangerous work at sea in facing the threats from irregular migration and in protection of our territorial waters.
The last year has seen a deepening of our regional partnerships to tackle the maritime threat with greater connectivity and collaboration with US law enforce and the Bahamas Defense Force. These relationships will enhance the safety and security of the northern Caribbean region.
Whilst colleagues from the RBPF came to support us so magnificently, there have been other key additions to the ranks within the Force. We have welcomed a new Head of Crime, Superintendent Dean Holden and 17 investigators, funded by the UK Government to support our Serious Crime Team. Our staffing numbers have been bolstered by a number of highly trained and experienced police officers that have joined us from across the region as well as 18 new recruits who have just left for their initial training in the Bahamas.
I am grateful for our HR and training team for their work in the recruitment of much needed additional officers and I know more recruitment is underway along in a number of areas of the Force with promotion processes also being instigated in the near future for Assistant Superintendents, Inspectors and Sergeants.
As a Force, we are being supported by the TCI and the UK Governments in our efforts to protect our communities and our borders. You would have seen the armored vehicles that have been purchased, a key part of keeping officers safer when dealing with a high threat.
We are currently procuring new vessels for our Marine Branch, along with recruiting 12 marine officers for the team. The UK Government is funding a dedicated and highly technical aircraft for the Force to provide a critical capability to detect threats at sea.
Within the airwing we have launched our drone unit and our intelligence function continues to grow in its capability and scope, including a professionalization of how we manage information from our communities. Vital Command Training is taking place over the coming months and we are determined to continue to invest in staff and technology.
With a growing training capability there will be opportunities for officers and staff to develop, to learn new skills and have the opportunity to move to specialist areas of policing as well advance through promotion opportunities.
This year will also see the expansion of our community policing project which will see more officers within our communities and in our schools. Working with our young people is critical in building safer communities. We appreciate the support and collaboration of all members of the community, businesses, schools and faith groups. The assistance and encouragement we have received from the people we serve is truly appreciated.
The Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force is developing and growing its capability fast, and we need to, to meet the demands of the future in order to best protect our communities.
Within all this development is the key ingredient; the fantastic men and women of the Force who work to protect their communities, 24 hours per day, every day of the year. We acknowledge we don’t always get things right, but given the demands on the Force and the Officers and staff within it and our extraordinary response to them, our communities are rightly proud and appreciative of what you do each day to keep them safe. Please keep doing what you do and please know you are appreciated.
I wish all of my teams a great Police Week and thank the Police Welfare Association for their support to the Officers and staff throughout the year and for organizing the week’s activities for Police week 2023.
God bless the courageous men and women of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force and the beautiful by nature Turks and Caicos Islands.