Prior to 2016 when Police Commissioner Michael Matthews commenced his duties in the BVI, regular police officers were permitted to arbitrarily retrieve a firearm from the police weapons safe and respond at a live firearms incident. That “ad hoc” approach has been removed from local policing, and only officers in the Armed Response Unit are permitted to respond to live incidents involving guns.
Commissioner Matthews made that clear amid concerns that police took a considerable long time to respond to a relatively-recent armed robbery at the Paradise Club in Cane Garden Bay, even though a police station was right next door.
The top cop said the available officers at the police station were instructed to “stay at a safe distance and observe” until the RVIPF’s Armed Response Unit arrived at the scene.
“If you send an unarmed officer into a live firearms situation and they lose their life, we’ve achieved nothing. So, we’ve moved from the [previous] ad hoc approach where anybody (a police officer) could grab a gun from out the [weapons] safe and run to an incident,” the Commissioner said.
“That wasn’t good enough because you can’t give a firearm to just anyone,” he added.
Armed response units active 24/7
Save for the generally poor state of local roads that may cause delays, an Armed Police Unit should be able to respond to any given firearms incident relatively quickly, Commissioner Matthews noted.
That is because the aforesaid RVIPF policy also provides for increased armed response units patrolling the territory.
“We have on patrol, 24/7, armed officers with a range of firearms in their vehicle ready to deploy. They can self-deploy without any authority if they come across a firearms incident,” said Matthews while speaking on the Honestly Speaking radio programme last week.
He said there are currently armed units deployed to each of the three sections of Tortola — eastern, central, and western.
“There is more coming for Virgin Gorda as well,” the top cop said. “The idea is that we will maintain that response 24/7.”
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