In the story titled "Police have solved most…" in the April 23rd edition of the Source, there is a graf which I found to be ironic, amusing, disheartening and all-too-telling.
It was reported that "one investigator, who spoke on the condition of anonymity said, '…a witness clams up and is unable to see the case through. There is the fear of reprisal.'"
Why should police officers (and other law enforcement officials) lament the fact that the public is afraid to speak up when they themselves will only speak on the condition of anonymity? Why should the public believe that the police are able to protect them from reprisals when the police's own actions and words show they don't believe they can protect themselves from (departmental) reprisals.
The fear of reprisals does not stop with the public and the police officers. I'm sure you and your staff have encountered countless government officials and employees afraid to speak out or demanding anonymity due to a fear of reprisals. The powers that be should be demanding that government employees speak out whenever they witness mismanagement, fraud, waste or abuse rather than punishing them for it. Are government officials doing all they can to eliminate those things or are they simply eliminating any willingness on the part of employees to bring those things to light? I would bet on the second possibility.
Maybe the territory's elected officials should ask their aides to get a copy of the federal "Whistle-blower" laws and see if there is a way to tailor them to meet the needs of the people of the Virgin Islands.
Eliminating the fear of reprisals must start and the top and work its way down through society. The government can not convince the public to not fear reprisals when reprisals are a standard management tool for government officials.
So the next time a police officer laments the unwillingness of the public to step forward, quote him (or her) only if they are willing to allow their name to be used. What do they have to be afraid of?
FEAR OF REPRISAL A V.I. MALAISE
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