After police stations across the territory sustained major structural blows during Hurricane Irma, the force has been operating in unconventional ways.
The temporary police headquarters, for one, is now a small room above RiteWay in Pasea, where Police Commissioner Michael Matthews hosted a press conference on Monday.
“We don’t have a police headquarters; we’re sitting in a room above the supermarket,” Mr. Matthews said. “When the public drive by the West End station, or when indeed you drive past the Road Town station, and you look at the damage that’s still there, what do the public think about how secure they feel when they see the police building is half wrecked?”
Repairs are in the works for police facilities, including the stations in Road Town, West End and Virgin Gorda, funded in part by $1.7 million the United Kingdom government pledged to the police force.
A project manager has also been appointed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to help oversee the project.
Still, the process has been slow and materials have yet to arrive in the territory.
Mr. Matthews admitted that some of the stations still look like they did the day after the hurricane, with missing windows, damaged CCTV cameras and doors hanging off their hinges.
“Some of the funding will be allocated to help not just to restore these facilities but make them stronger and hopefully a lot more pleasant to work in,” the commissioner said.
Along with damaged buildings, police have been grappling with a fractured communication system.
Since the police radio network was destroyed during the storm, Mr. Matthews said, officers have been primarily using cell phones. He hopes with the new UK funding, they can establish a new radio and CCTV system by March 31.
The police IT system was also down following the hurricane, the commissioner confirmed, and officers were forced to write down every crime that happened in the territory from Sept. 6 to the beginning of December on paper.
The force spent the last few weeks logging those records into a new IT system.
The damaged Road Town Police Station also became home to the Magistrates’ Court after Irma, as the court buildings in Johns Hole and Prospect Reef wait for repairs. Arrest matters are heard in a small room behind the building on an irregular basis.
Magistrate Ayanna Baptiste DaBreo said during a January sitting that she was unable to schedule future trial dates for defendants for lack of a better court space.
On Monday, Mr. Matthews agreed that both Magistrates’ Court and High Court need a permanent space to operate as soon as possible, whether that entails identifying a new space for the High Court or repairing the former one in the House of Assembly building.
“There is a problem with the court system at the moment, and it is taking too long to get a Magistrates’ Court up and running, and we still do not have a High Court in the territory as we sit here now,” he said. “That has major implications on the effectiveness of the criminal justice system.”