It appears Commissioner of Police Michael Matthews is slightly softening his apparently hardline approach that more police officers should not carry guns.
He, this week, told BVI News Online that the United Kingdom has agreed to assess the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force’s needs regarding firearm usage.
In the interim, more officers have been armed, Commissioner Matthews disclosed.
“I’ve also – with the blessing of the Government of the Virgin Islands – spoken to and approached Her Majesty’s Government in the UK and got agreement for the UK to send specialist firearms officers out here to assess our future needs for this territory.”
The commissioner also noted that he has increased the size of the police Immediate Response Unit (Task Force), which he said is the only group of officers authorised to be armed 24 hours a day.
“We have just boosted the Task Force by adding to it some of our experienced detectives who are capable of carrying firearms to increase the numbers available immediately now.”
He further said the Task Force now has about 18 members, ‘including the recent extensions’.
“They are authorised to carry a sidearm and a long arm high-powered weapon. On top of that, there are officers at every station from Virgin Gorda, Anegada, Jost Van Dyke, to everything on Tortola. There is a section of officers within each of those stations that are also authorised to carry firearms when required. Also, our CID officers are also authorised to carry firearms, but again that is a when-required.”
Commissioner Matthews told BVI News Online that roughly a third of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force is currently licensed to carry guns.
His comments came amid increased calls for police officers to be armed in response to the spike in gun crimes in the British Virgin Islands.
Commissioner Matthews, in the meantime, noted that not all officers want to carry guns, and he can’t force them to do so.
“Not every police officer wants to carry a gun… I cannot force police officers to carry firearms; it has to be done on a voluntary basis. We do have volunteers and then those volunteers have to be trained, and not every police officer could shoot a gun. No matter how much training you give them they are more dangerous with a gun in their hand than without,” the commissioner said.