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Policing the CaribbeanTransnational Security Cooperation in Practice$

Ben Bowling

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199577699

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199577699.001.0001

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Armed Force, the Military, and Transnational Policing

Armed Force, the Military, and Transnational Policing

(p.139) 5 Armed Force, the Military, and Transnational Policing
Policing the Caribbean

Ben Bowling

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses the involvement of the armed forces, the police, and the military in the region's fight against crime and its operators. The first parts of this chapter differentiates the said groups from one another — in terms of function and orientation. The chapter also focuses on the Caribbean military and their duties regarding the implementation of peace and order in the region. Other specialized forces such as local security, the Regional Defense Force, and the constabularies are also discussed. These groups' participations in the region's war against crime are also reviewed in this chapter. The issue on paramilitary policing over the region is scrutinized. Paramilitary policing is, as apparent as it may look the same, is still different from genuine military orientation. This chapter also discusses how the use of military training and symbolisms amongst the police forces in the region can be an effective way of diminishing the sudden increase in the crime rate in the Caribbean.

Keywords:   military forces, paramilitary policing, crime rate, armed forces, local security


To put it bluntly, in its most basic iteration, military training is aimed at killing people and breaking things. Consequently, military doctrine has forces moving on a target by fire and manoeuvre with a view towards destroying that target. Police forces, on the other hand, take an entirely different approach. They have to exercise the studied restraint that a judicial process requires; they gather evidence and arrest ‘suspects’. Where the military sees ‘enemies’ of the United States, a police agency, properly oriented, sees ‘citizens’ suspected of crimes but innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. These are two different views of the world.1

When wars on drugs and crime are declared, it should come as no surprise that soldiers and military force are called for.2 Being on a war footing implies that a problem is not mere criminality, but warfare in which the armed forces of the nation state are pitted against an enemy. Colonel Charles Dunlap Jnr., a Staff Judge Advocate in the US Air Force, quoted above, points out that these are two very different views of the world. Conceiving of crime as warfare changes both the ends and the means of intervention. This reflects a more general trend for talk about (p.140) the enemy to move into criminal policy.3 Susanne Krassmann argues that a new ‘enemy penology’ has emerged which posits that ‘criminal enemies’ should not merely be controlled or punished, but ‘have to be combated, excluded, if not extinguished’.4 From this perspective, ‘social enemies’ should be denied the legal protections granted to others because they represent a ‘fundamental threat to society’. This trend is fostered by the sense, discussed in Chapter 2, that the nature of crime and security have fundamentally changed, requiring new modes of intervention. Kraska makes a useful distinction between militarization— preparation for the activity of war5—and militarism, ‘a cultural pattern of beliefs and values supporting war’.6 Both are relevant to understanding police-military linkages occurring in response to anxieties about ‘new’ forms of insecurity that transcend the boundaries between domestic and international affairs, crime and war, constable and soldier.

From the nineteenth century onwards, the modern nation state attempted to make a clear separation between the army and the police, described by Lucia Zedner as the ‘twin engines’ powering the state’s monopoly on the use of violence.7 This separation, with the military focusing on the external threats posed by foreign (p.141) armies and police forces concerned with the domestic issues of order maintenance, crime prevention, and investigation is in fact not so clear-cut, particularly in the colonial context. This chapter explores the complex and intertwined relationship between police and military in the Caribbean. First, it charts the role of formally constituted armies—starting with the British West India regiment—and considers the historical and contemporary role of military defence forces in domestic policing. It then looks at forms of specialist ‘paramilitary’ policing either within the police services or hybrid police-military ‘third forces’.8 Experiments in developing police specialized in armed conflict differ from one territory to the next, but an attempt is made to draw some general conclusions from the literature and empirical material. We look in detail at the work of the Regional Security System (RSS)—headquartered in Barbados and with components across the Eastern Caribbean— which can draw together a mobile sub-regional paramilitary force. The chapter attempts to unravel the complex relationship between police and military force to explain why it is that armed force is frequently called for in a domestic setting in dealing with ordinary law crime. It looks at the problems facing military commanders in their efforts to work together with the police forces within their own territories, military colleagues elsewhere in the region, and with overseas intelligence officers, and when military force is actually used. It considers the extent to which, and in what senses, transnational policing in the region has become militarized and the implications of this for the pursuit of democratic policing.

(p.142) Caribbean Military Forces

Today, Jamaica, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago have the largest military forces in the Commonwealth Caribbean, each with infantry divisions, artillery battery, and air defence. In each place, the coastguard commander answers to the Chief of Staff and their vessels are considered to be integral to the defence force’s capacity. Belize, Barbados, Saint Kitts and Nevis have smaller defence forces, while the Bahamas has a military coastguard. The size of the defence force depends on the size of the territory, the strength of its economy, and the specific security challenges that it faces.9 The other islands within the Commonwealth Caribbean don’t have defence forces, but have paramilitary Special Services Units (SSUs) within the police force (to which we return later in this chapter). Wherever there are defence forces, there is also a coastguard headed by a senior military figure and answering to the defence ministry (see Chapter 7). Each of these small armies can be traced back to their roots in colonial forces including the West India Regiment and island militias.

In some islands the imperial garrison has had a defensive role that has seen no military force used against a foreign state for centuries. Barbados, for example, has been under British control since 1627 and the last time that an army was engaged in open warfare in Jamaica was in 1655 when the English ejected the Spanish. Nonetheless the garrison was an important part of colonial life. It had a community life of its own—accommodating men and women providing services to the soldiers—and had a significant impact on the governance of the colonies.10 Eighteenth century British colonial policy in the region required a large navy and army (p.143) to secure its extensive trading and commercial interests.11 In the late 1790s, the West Indies accounted for four fifths of British overseas capital investment, one third of foreign trade, and one eighth of total net revenue to the treasury in direct tax and duties.12 To protect these interests, 69 British infantry regiments were sent to the region between 1793 and 1800. The high death toll from fevers amongst the British soldiers unused to, and unprepared for, tropical conditions was one of the key reasons that the West India Regiment (WIR) was created in 1795 when Lieutenant General Vaughan called for ‘a corps of a thousand’ blacks and Mulattoes, commanded by British Officers.13 These men, he believed, ‘would render more essential service in the Country, than treble this number of Europeans who are unaccustomed to the climate’. Recruited initially from African slaves bought on arrival in the Caribbean and later from freed slaves from North America, the WIR was eventually garrisoned across all the British possessions. In its early years, the regiment was deployed in fighting over trade and island territories during the Napoleonic wars (1792–1815) when islands of the Eastern Caribbean changed hands among the colonial powers. The regiment was an integral part of the British army although it was low in the military hierarchy, and according to Buckley, over the years it had no fascination for the general public, and lacked reputation and image, more a ‘phantom army lurking subliminally in British imperial history’.14 There has been no conventional war fighting within the Caribbean region for nearly two centuries and longer in some islands. The army was of course there for the purposes of defence, in the event that a foreign enemy might attempt to invade, but its focus has been primarily, even from the earliest colonial times, on internal security first against maroon insurgencies and slave rebellions, and then the repression of the riots and rebellions of the post-emancipation period.15 Military force has been called upon, and used on numerous occasions (p.144) across the region in response to political violence, attempted coups d’état, and civil emergencies.

The military officers that I interviewed were an impressive group.16 They were well educated, most had university degrees and many had postgraduate qualifications. They had, without exception, been trained in the USA, or the UK, some of them having served in foreign militaries. The Chiefs of Staff saw security threats as transnational, borderless, and ‘intertwined with what happens regionally and internationally’. Top of their list was the risk of a collapse of the rule of law, high internal crime levels, the illegal arms trade, organized criminal networks, and terrorism. They also tended towards a broad view of security including economic threats, loss of natural resources, and the ‘social threats which stare us in the face every day’—such as poverty, disorder, a lack of proper health facilities and educational opportunities and systems, and also infectious diseases, especially HIV/Aids. The drug trade sat at the centre of the security issues, especially where drug money had become integrated into the legitimate economy. As with other occupational groups, the threat was believed to arise from the islands’ position as a trans-shipment point on the route between the producers of cocaine and the users in Europe and North America. Problems arose when payment for the illicit drugs was made ‘in stocks or supplies rather than cash’ leading to drugs being sold on the local market and ‘fallout from the drug trade’, including armed violence ‘to protect their turf’.

There are a number of reasons that the military defence forces are called in to deal with the problems of crime and drug trafficking. First, throughout their history, the military have had a law enforcement role in dealing with disorder or insurrection and in many senses this is thought of as the defence of the country, and therefore a matter of national security—a military duty. One Chief of Staff explained that:

when I look at the mission of the _______ Defence Force, it’s very simple, it’s to deter and defeat threats of organized violence against the well-being (p.145) of our country and its citizens and that’s how I lump the mission now, it’s not to defend against an external aggressor meaning another state.

In several countries—notably Jamaica and Guyana—the army has been called upon from time to time to respond to violence or the threat of violence surrounding elections. In recent years, military forces in these countries and across the region have also been deployed to deal with armed violence connected to drug trafficking and organized crime. There are also some boundary disputes within the region and potential for conflict over matters like fishing stocks and offshore oil fields, etc.17 However, the main threats to security within the region do not relate to the prospect of invasion or incursion by a foreign power. As one Chief of Staff put it:

the fact of the matter is, the militaries in the region especially, cannot really, in today’s world, be locked into the old traditional military duties. In fact, you will have no business because we have no threats from any state actors, they are all non-state actors who I think are far more dangerous because you’re not quite sure [of] a well defined enemy. (emphasis added)

This view was shared by the British security advisors within the region:

military forces throughout the Caribbean…had a defensive role in the bad old days but today largely are in support of national security, and therefore they need to be able to operate in a humanitarian way with the police forces, and it’s getting that linkage between the police and the military that I think is vitally important.

The British advisors argued that the experience of the British and international militaries in peace support operations in such places as Bosnia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, and now Afghanistan and Iraq, have led to a broadening of the skills of the military in this sphere:

anybody who goes into a peace support operation, not a peace keeping, a peace support operation, is now taught the same skills that we taught for Northern Ireland, and that requires the police and military to work together, and I think a lot of those skills are what are needed in the Caribbean now, because we mustn’t forget that the police services in the Caribbean are not mandated quite the same as our own police service. (p.146) They have a much wider, not paramilitary [role], but there are certain paramilitary tasks they have which are defence of the realm.

A second reason that the role of the military in the business of policing has become accepted in contemporary society is because the seriousness of the crime situation has gone beyond what the police can cope with using the means and techniques available to them. Traditional forms of reactive investigation and attempts to engage public support in the pursuit of crime control seem ineffective in controlling crime or responding adequately to armed violence, leading in some instances to a loss of public support. Additionally, the police are not always prepared, equipped, or skilled to respond professionally, in ways that protect officers from injury, keeping force to a minimum and prioritizing the preservation of life. One Chief of Staff argued while police traditionally, and quite correctly, have been recognized by various governments as being the force in the forefront for law enforcement, military force is required to deal with armed criminality because ‘the state sometimes finds itself powerless to enforce law in those areas from the perspective of community policing techniques and so what you have to use is the harder arm of government which is a military.’ The military is called upon, he argued, because it is ‘trained at the high end of the scale and can easily step down’ to cope with less severe violence ‘whereas the police would have to be totally retrained in order to step up’.

Defence forces have contributed to policing on a sporadic basis in the period since decolonization. Military intervention was geared towards acute problems such as riot and public disorder where the police have had difficulty coping. The military has a more extensive role in the event that there is a state of emergency. In this instance, the Prime Minister has to invoke the relevant section of the Defence Act, signing a paper that authorizes the Defence Force to employ the troops to assist the police. As one brigadier put it, ‘If there’s a state of emergency, then it’s all on my plate’. In Jamaica, the military were given constabulary powers between 1974 and 1994 under the Suppression of Crimes Act. This gave ‘security forces’—defined as the police and military—constabulary powers. Today, ongoing chronic problems, such as handling routine armed violence, was changing the relationship between police and military. As one Chief of Staff put it, their involvement is now continuous, ‘so even when you don’t see soldiers on the street, (p.147) we are supporting law enforcement with intelligence and we have certain specific law enforcement duties’. Bearing in mind the security threats mentioned above, Chiefs of Staff felt that although the military should not be at the forefront of the law enforcement effort, ‘when your nation is confronted with something [of this] magnitude…I don’t think that you have a choice’.

Thirdly, the military has had a prominent role in policing because it is seen as the only agency with the capacity to provide support for other branches of government. The military is frequently drawn upon in a wide range of different spheres, because it is a well functioning element of the state. Put simply, the army is used in crime fighting ‘because it works’.18 Soldiers are generally, more professional, better trained, organized, disciplined, resourced, and equipped. In many ways, the military has become a multi-purpose force that has been reasonably well maintained and trained, both domestically and often with British, American, and Canadian armed forces. In comparison with other state agencies, the military in the Caribbean is seen as well disciplined and in possession of a ‘can do’ attitude. It is therefore relatively easy for governments to call on the army to carry out a range of tasks going beyond a traditional military mandate:

the Government sees the military as a disciplined body, [and] if the government tells the military, ‘Come up with a plan to do so and so’, the military will go and cobble up and then implement it, so the result is the Government is calling more on the military to be involved in the youths, to be involved in assisting the police, involved in external response to disasters in the region, so there is a more greater demand on the military.

The fourth reason for a growing involvement of the military in domestic law enforcement was the problem of corruption within policing and elsewhere, calling for the intervention of an agency less tainted with collusion. Senior military staff were strongly of the view that the police service has ‘become more and more corrupt every day’ to the extent that is effectively ‘in league’ with organized crime groups. Military forces in the Caribbean region are generally viewed as being less corrupt as a consequence of the military having a smaller amount of day-to-day contact with people involved in the drugs trade, in comparison with their police counterparts. (p.148) Dealing with corruption was therefore a major headache. One Chief of Staff described corruption as his ‘biggest, biggest, biggest problem’:

Let me say this, no criminal worth his salt or criminal enterprise in [this country], the region or internationally, survives without corrupting law enforcement arms of the State. You cannot survive, it is impossible.…So the difficulties we have is ineptitude on the part of law enforcement on one hand and on the other hand, because the guy is not there with a smoking gun to pin the stuff [on him] from which he is far removed. You also have to work around your own.

Police and Customs officers’ collusion with organized crime groups created a major headache for the military. It was widely suspected, although its actual extent was unknown and perhaps unknowable. One problem was that many people defined corruption very narrowly as the taking of bribes for particular acts. When people turn a ‘blind eye’ to others’ wrongdoing, this was generally not thought of as corruption. The way to respond to this was through vetting, by creating within each agency specially vetted groupings using polygraph and background tests. Despite this possible solution, the problem of corruption has been identified by one of the Chiefs of Staff as endemic in the police organization:

It is very difficult for a man to join the Police Force as a constable, 20-odd years later he’s a superintendent coming all the way up through the ranks and not being touched on his way, even by his acts or his omissions. Difficult. And so it seems to me they need to develop some leadership core from a much younger stage.

Finally, in some locations, military units seem less likely to use deadly force than their police paramilitary counterparts. The reasons for this are not well documented but include the fact that soldiers tend to have less discretion in their operations than the police, including the use of armed force. There are obviously exceptions, but soldiers tend to fire only when ordered to do so, even in combat situations when shots are being fired, whereas police have wide discretion to act. Soldiers are also better equipped with body armour and bullet protection and are trained how to respond to the experience of being under fire. Academics, NGOs, and media commentators have recommended that because of the corruption, ineffectiveness, and abuse of force among the constabularies of the region the military forces—such as the Jamaica Defence Force (p.149) and Guyana Defence Force—should take over the heavy end of the police function leaving ‘ordinary law policing’ to an unarmed community police force.

Local Security Cooperation

The military work with local agencies including police, Customs and the coastguard. They have partnerships with the international agencies with whom they operate ‘on a daily basis’. This includes those from the embassies, including HM Customs, the British Security Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the US Drugs Enforcement Administration (DEA), Defence Attachés, drug squad, police, and Special Branch. A Chief of Staff explained that the military ‘kind of lead that drive because we chair the meetings’ involving sharing of information and planning operations. The Military Intelligence Unit—with various desks looking at drugs, one concerned with criminals, another with internal matters—is based at the Defence Force Headquarters lying at the hub of the coordination efforts. This was less than strategically planned, but ‘it’s something that really just evolved by their being a vacuum with a need for some leadership and it just evolved’. At the time of the research, different models of organization were being considered, consisting essentially of a national structure to pull together the police and various agencies dealing with the intelligence to create a national intelligence bureau. The Chief of Staff saw in telligence as absolutely central to the process of developing an effective response. They were far from having either the strategic, tactical, or operational intelligence processes in place; however, they are in the process of capacity building in this sphere.

For Colonel Dunlap, the attitude of the military towards its involvement in ‘ordinary law’ policing is captured in the idea of soldiers as ‘reluctant heroes’.19 He argues that the increased reliance on military resources for policing is in the interest of neither the armed forces nor the public and that in the USA, the call for the armed forces to become involved in policework ‘almost always arises from outside the military establishment’.20 Caribbean military leaders were similarly reluctant. As one Caribbean Chief of Staff put it, ‘we know in our limitations that we are not policemen. We don’t want to be policemen. We’d have joined the Police Force (p.150) if we did’. There are numerous problems with having the military routinely involved in policing activity because military and policing tasks have fundamentally different orientation. The ethos of the military, its training, and specific skills are not suited towards policework. As Colonel Dunlap puts it so eloquently at the start of this chapter, the military are experts in killing people and breaking things. Soldiering has certain kinds of rules of engagement and techniques in the use of force. It is this war-making metaphor that is unsuitable for dealing with civilians. One of the brigadiers conceded that ‘on war and crime, once you say war, it puts you in a particular frame of mind.…So I agree that the way on the war on crime carries you down a particular way.’ He went on to say that:

We don’t like being involved as we are right now with the police and it’s bad for the soldiers, it’s bad for image. The military should be shock troops, we should come into the area, come into a situation with a limited time frame with our end state clearly in mind, achieve what we have to do on patrol, and that is how we prefer to operate. We are against situations as it is right now where soldiers are out there 24/7 patrolling with the police and that is not how it ought to be done.

Recognizing this, Chiefs of Staff must attempt to devise ways that the defence force can ‘work alongside the police with the intention of bringing them up to a level where they can then mount the operations and then we can patrol’. However, there are also problems with this, because ‘It never works because the police then see the soldiers as just numbers in terms of assisting them to cover a wider area’. There were some occasions involving disagreements between police and military perspectives. The Chief of Staff described working with the Police as a challenge:

sometimes there are disagreements. A soldier feels that that person should be searched, the Police says no, but the Police is in charge of the law enforcement part of things and you get those little things from time to time, but we try to keep it separate.

Clearly, working with police in a context where there is a high level of police corruption is also an important barrier. There is also a more general cultural difference between the two organizations that can be found all over the world.

The sharing of strategic and tactical intelligence is relatively unproblematic. However, a new range of issues come in to play when the military and other agencies work together in conducting (p.151) joint operations. The two central principles on which they operate are that, firstly, the police have primacy and, secondly, they have to work jointly. Nonetheless, even with the principle of police primacy firmly in place, the army maintained a great deal of latitude in what it was able to do. One Chief of Staff explained that primacy did not mean that they were ‘just an adjunct to the police’:

I meant primacy in terms of taking that law enforcement action but in terms of developing, following through, we can do that all on our own and we do a lot of that all on our own. Let’s take the case with one of the top ten fugitives recently, [ John Doe]. The Police Commissioner picked up the phone and said, ‘Look, you need some help, can we f nd [ John Doe]’ and it’s something we worked entirely on our own, we only used the Police, we brought some policemen in when we needed to make some forays in the community to try and generate something, but we had to go with the Police to do that, but when we had it, we just then called the Police and said ‘Right, troops, let’s go, plan this thing, move’.

We have had situations where the ____ Defence Force almost is leading but we know very clearly that whilst we may be directing the tactics and so on in a particular set of ways, we really are not leading, we are assisting the Police, and that’s what you will hear, that’s the party line, you always get that, and we do this too for a very practical reason. The Police here suffer from what I term as deep psychological insecurity. They want our help but the way they would want our help is for them to say, ‘Look, we need help’ and I just send masses of troops for them just to do with what they wish, and I have been saying, ‘We’re not going to do that. Our brains have to come along and we have to be a part of the planning’. That to me is my biggest frustration now because they need the help but they still want to do it on their own, and so what I’ve had to do is draw a hard line. I say, ‘Look, that operation is foolishness, we’re not going to play. We’re not going to do it. It’s manpower intensive. It achieves nothing’.

The army officer concerned would undertake the identification, then pass the information on to the police. As far as possible, the army are not physically involved in the operations.

I mean my team could be there. They’re observing. They’re reporting. They’re talking. They’re bringing the Police and so on. But the fact that the thing is signed, and because we don’t want to necessarily expose the people anyway, they tend not to get involved. Our teams would go out, would find them, would keep track of them, the Police teams would come and we’d just vector them and say, ‘Look, he’s over there’ and they go and they take him. The only thing we don’t do is make the arrest, okay. We have no power of arrest, not anything more than a normal citizen.

(p.152) A solider could physically hold a person during an operation, but in most instances they would not. If this did occur, it would not be a formal arrest and could only be temporary until the police officers present could do the formalities: ‘we don’t get involved with that at all, even if we had the power, Police are better at that. We grab you, we hold you, we hand you to the Police.’ In many ways, the role of the military in this circumstance is similar to the work of the international liaison officer (see Chapter 8) in that they can do quite a lot of activity as long as this falls short of ‘enforcement’:

We can work by ourselves, we can do anything, but you just cannot take any law enforcement action, you can’t stop somebody and search them because you suspect them of carrying a gun, you can’t do that.…Unless there’s a police officer, who really is the one doing it and you’re assisting him. The fact that you do it physically doesn’t matter. (emphasis added)

This is a very interesting point and in many ways it is the one on which the whole issue of sovereignty in law enforcement revolves. How far does it matter when the police and military are working together and the police have ‘primacy’, that a soldier physically takes the enforcement action such as a stop and search, arrest, or conduct an interview?

Regional Defence Force Cooperation

Defence forces collaborate with other militaries within the region.21 One Chief of Staff was strongly of the view that there was need for the security sector to get its act together locally before attempting some kind of international effort:

there is always this big thing about the region, look it’s a load of crap because we’re trying to get the region to work together when you’re not having the thing structured in your own countries. I am a great believer in the bottom up approach, get your country sorted out, get your in-country teams, then you look at the sub-region.

He was therefore against putting effort into creating a structure for regional maritime cooperation when bilateral agreements with particular countries would be more productive. One example was the attempt to create a regional intelligence process. Part of the (p.153) problem with this was that a lot of effort might be expended in an attempt to create a mechanism for sharing intelligence without thinking about what would actually be put in to such a system:

they’re trying to come from the top down, it just doesn’t work, so all this thing about regional intelligence and so on and so on, I think we’re all tied up too much with trying to get the means to communicate intelligence but nobody has stopped to ask, ‘what intelligence?’ Do we really have an intelligence to communicate and that’s part of my problem because the Police are working on a system, the military too through them are working on it and everybody wants a system. To do what?

There is a strong working relationship among the region’s military chiefs. The officers frequently have trained together in Britain, Canada, or the USA. Many senior officers have travelled with Defence Ministers to discuss security matters at CARICOM level and there is also a Military chiefs’ conference providing a forum for discussion and collaboration. In particular, there is a great deal of conversation among the larger military forces—Jamaica, Guyana, and Trinidad. One Chief of Staff described the military as the ‘most integrated organization’ in the Caribbean. Relationships have also formed with the US military Southern Command (Southcom), US Coastguard, and British, French, Dutch, and German naval vessels when they are in the region. Several countries have also had experience of working with the US Marshals Service Fugitive Apprehension Team (FAT), in an operational capacity. The FAT, who pass the information to the local police, work in conjunction with these forces to ‘look for their target and make the arrest but the arrest is actually made by the ______ constable who brings the person back but is escorted overseas after the extradition process by the Americans’.

Chiefs of Staff shared the view expressed by their colleagues in other security agencies that intelligence sharing with the USA often resulted in an imbalance: ‘with something American sponsored, there is always the feeling that it’s something you put information in, but you get nothing out.’ On the other hand, Caribbean security staff were able to work best with the countries of South America through the representatives of the metropolitan countries:

you have a common link between every country: it’s the United States, it’s Britain. You may find it surprising but most of what we have in the linkages with Colombia and so on are through the British, not the Americans, so that’s how we have a strong leg into Colombia. If we want to get (p.154) information we go to our British counterpart here because we find that they have strong legs there. Cuba, we work through the British, but I mean that’s obvious, the US would have some difficulty.

The Chiefs of Staff shared the anxieties felt by officers of other organizations in the Caribbean about certain agencies who perhaps felt that they would be more efficient if they acted autonomously, in doing their own work. One Chief of Staff argued that some people are of the view that ‘it needs to happen’, but he didn’t share that view:

I don’t feel so. I feel that whatever happens has to happen within a controlled environment. What I have never advocated is having mavericks running around the place doing their own thing.…because in the long run what it does is alienates you, your policies, what you are working towards down the line and it creates more problems for yourself and your organization than anything else. So I think everything ought, to a certain degree, to be controlled as far as the military environment and the joint operations are concerned.

The issue was that the Chiefs of Staff would always need to ‘provide the guiding influence’, operate with great care, but at the same time ‘allow individuals flexibility.’ The crucial issue was accountability and control. It is absolutely critical to work within a framework. Thus, accountability has to remain ‘strictly within the bounds of law’:

The accountability lies first with the individual. We tell our soldiers, for arguments sake here, that whatever actions you carry out, at the end of the day you must be able to justify them and justify them in a court of law. We also say to them, that ‘Look if you go outside there and you commit an offence, no matter what it is, you make sure you come and report it and report it truthfully. That way we will back you to the hilt whether you are wrong or right, you’ll know when you are wrong and you’ll go and take your blows’, but we will provide the legal aid for you, when you are right, you will still get the legal aid but from the moment you come in and you start to lie, then the organization takes a different perspective and you are basically on your own, the lie having been discovered. So the whole point is you know, stick within the ambits of the law.

I was interested in the Chiefs of Staff’s view of how far they were keen for the international cooperation to extend to sending criminals committing crime within their jurisdiction to the US for trial. Wherever it was possible to execute an arrest warrant, and a (p.155) case could be made to prosecute crimes committed in his country, then ‘we are going to proceed, there’s not going to be any argument about it’.

Military Force in Caribbean Constabularies

There is wide variation among modern liberal democracies in the form and style of their system of police,22 but most maintain police forces that are distinct and separate from the military.23 In England, piloting the Metropolitan Police Act (1829) through a sceptical parliament, Sir Robert Peel is credited with creating the template for the ‘democratic’, ‘consensual’, or ‘Westminster’ model of policing. The Metropolitan Police was created as a civilian force quite opposed to and very much as an alternative to the military, especially in relation to the control of public order, where—as in the Peterloo Massacre—military intervention had earlier been so disastrous.24 This includes the emphasis on ‘policing by consent’ of the policed, visible uniformed policing, the minimal use of force, the idea of the police officer as ‘citizen in uniform’, the insistence that officers should normally be armed with nothing more than the impersonal authority of the state and a wooden truncheon. However, it hardly need be pointed out that the new police uniforms,25 hierarchical badge of rank, forms of internal discipline, and the fact that one of its first Commissioners was a former commander of (p.156) the Light Brigade (the other was a lawyer), all point to its military origins. Townsend argued that because of the ‘unmistakably military style and, in many respects, behaviour of the new police it was naturally christened a ‘force’.26 The police force that was created by the Metropolitan Police Act had many military trappings, but it may reasonably be contrasted with a form of policing based on French gendarmerie or mouchards with their foundations, respectively, in militarism and espionage.27 One of the primary political justifications for the introduction of the Metropolitan Police in the early nineteenth century was to quell riotous behaviour without recourse to the army. Peel made every effort to ensure that the ‘new police’ were as distinct as possible from soldiers or spies (see Chapter 4).28 In the face of popular resistance to the police, which continued well into the late 1840s, government sought to make the new police less obviously an arm of the state. Resistance, captured by the cry ‘no standing armies’ resonated with the eighteenth century distinctions between ‘continental despotism’ (standing armies, police spies, lettres de cachet, and Bastilles) and ‘English liberty’ (rule of law, balanced constitution, unpaid constables, and local justices of the peace).29 Resistance was strong in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and for a considerable period it appeared that reformers would not succeed in introducing a police force in the capital. Though a number of factors enabled Peel eventually to prevail, a crucial one was the experience of Peterloo, the shock of which ‘opened many eyes to the dangers of employing armed men against crowds’.30 Part of the solution for Peel was to be able to utilize public and political concern about the use of the military in civil disturbances and to present the new model police as being as different from the military as it was possible to be.

The model for British colonial forces in the Caribbean, in common with other countries in the Empire, was the Royal Irish (p.157) Constabulary, interspersed with aspirations to follow the civil policing model pursued in some other places.31 Sir Robert Peel— who gave his name to the benign unarmed British Bobby—was also creator of the Irish Constabulary in 1812, based on an explicitly militarized model of policing which assumed the absence of consent from native populations, if only because it was a mechanism to maintain colonial rule.32 Policing in this model requires selective enforcement in favour of the dominant group, the criminalization of minority activities, and suppression of the right to protest or to demonstrate for political change.33 The strategy of ‘policing by strangers’ requires that recruitment to the police is generally not from among locals. Where the indigenous population is employed, most officers above the rank of constable and all the senior command are from the ‘metropolitan or settler group’ and do not reflect the demographic characteristics of society at large.34 The Irish model formed the basis for British colonial police forces around the world.35 Whilst democratic, consensual policing was reserved for the settlement of disputes and investigation of crimes within the settler community, the majority of the population had no such recourse but were instead subject to colonial policing when their interests or behaviour threatened the status quo. Paul Gilroy notes that the ‘history of colonial power over-flows with evidence of…a destructive association of governance with military power and marshal law’, reaching beyond the army to medicine and public administration.36

Following the abolition of slavery in 1833 and the Morant Bay Rebellion in 1865 the problems of the use of soldiers in policing a civil population were starkly illustrated as Peterloo (p.158) had done half a century earlier in England.37 Following rioting and the burning of a courthouse in the town of Morant Bay, the unpopular Governor Eyre placed the island under martial law and punished those he considered to have taken part in the uprising. During the further rioting that followed, the West India Regiment was actively involved in destroying houses, making arrests, and carrying out executions.38 The Jamaica Constabulary Force was established a year later. In many islands the West India Regiment garrison was a community which underwent major transformation as the regiment prepared to leave. When the West India Regiment was withdrawn from the Bahamas (in November 1891), a new police force was recruited from Barbados. This was distinctly military in nature. Headed by a Captain Learmouth from England (formerly of the 12th Royal Lancers), staffed with 42 recruits from Barbados and a new Police Act of 1891, the force started work in 1892.39

The Jamaica Constabulary Force, modelled on the Royal Irish Constabulary, had control of colonial populations, was militarized, heavily armed, subjectively controlled, and practised differential enforcement rather than adhering to the Westminster ethos of minimal force and political independence.40 After independence in 1962, there were attempts at reform of the organization, including a ‘Jamaicanization’ of the leadership and an attempt at civilianization. Harriott’s analysis of the reform process concluded that the former succeeded, but the latter failed and the force became increasingly politicized. Harriott describes the attempts to introduce community-based policing in Jamaica.41 He concludes that the community-police consultative committees are ineffective and therefore there is little real community input into policy (p.159) priority setting or problem solving. Consequently there is a general deficit of police accountability to the community. The forms of police-community contact are ‘emptied of their democratic and consensus-building content’ while ‘the typical constable becomes steeped in authoritarian practices’ and therefore has ‘great difficulty fitting with the style of community policing’.42 The organizational values and culture of the organization remain resolutely military. Harriott concludes that the concept of police-community relations ‘remains a public relations concept’.43 Caribbean police forces, unable to shake off their military origins, have become ever more militarized and militaristic in recent years, and attempts at reform have tended to be more symbolic than substantive.44 In Harriott’s assessment, today’s Jamaica Constabulary Force operates in ways ‘consistent with the military model’.

Paramilitary Policing

The use of quasi-military armed force by police officers is an issue that is linked to, but separate from, the use of defence forces in policing. The use of military training, equipment, philosophy, and organization has a long history in policing.45 The acquisition and use of armaments (such as firearms, gas, water cannon, and military vehicles), the use of military language and symbolism, secrecy, and the collation of intelligence on suspect populations (often demonized as ‘enemies’), are all common in paramilitary police forces. In some instances, these units are under the direct control of governments and are partisan in enforcing the rule of a specific political regime. The militarization of policing is evident around the world and notably in the UK and US, the sponsors of a significant amount of police development and training in the Caribbean region.

In the English summer riots of the late 1970s, Bobbies defended themselves from the rioters’ stones and bottles with dustbin-lids as improvised shields. In response to the riots, through the policing of the mid-1980s miners’ strike and drawing on the experience of policing the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland, and with the assistance of advice from the Royal Hong Kong Police, the police forces of (p.160) England and Wales acquired paramilitary equipment, techniques, and training. A national reporting centre was created in 1972 that would enable the Association of Chief Police Officers to coordinate public order policing across police force boundaries.46 While Scarman is best remembered as the re-invigorator of community policing, The Scarman Report also set out in a few short paragraphs, the seeds from which the militarization of British policing would grow.47 The Law Lord bemoaned the Metropolitan Police’s lack of preparedness for riot control and, while rejecting the calls for a ‘third force’, recommended the acquisition of paramilitary capacity within domestic police forces. There followed the acquisition of CS gas, plastic bullets, flame-proof suits, NATO helmets, long shields, extendable truncheons, armoured vehicles, and a permanent paramilitary training facility in West London known colloquially as ‘riot city’. The extent of militarization has gradually become visible over the past two decades in the gradual arming of police at airports, the posting of armed police outside police headquarters and government buildings, the creation of specialist armed police units (such as the Metropolitan Police CO19) and the deployment of armed ‘area cars’ in most parts of the country. In the wake of the terrorist attacks on London in July 2005, the full extent of the military capacity of British policing by way of men and women in black military fatigues, bullet-proof vests, black and white checked baseball caps, and automatic weapons appeared on the streets of British cities.

The extent of paramilitary policing has also grown in the USA as forces have become professionalized. A survey in the 1990s, for example, found that 90 per cent of police departments in cities with populations in excess of 50,000 had paramilitary units, as did 70 per cent of departments in smaller cities.48 This trend started with the creation of a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team by the FBI in 1973. By the 1990s all 56 of the FBI’s field offices had their own SWAT team. The growing role of the military in law enforcement was given its greatest boost by the ‘war on drugs’. (p.161) One ‘fragment’ of European culture that was passed to colonial America was the view that a permanent military presence was to be distrusted—indeed viewed as despotic and tyrannical.49 The establishment of civilian control of the military became a key issue in the drafting of the constitution.50 The 1878 Posse Comitatus Act subsequently outlawed the use of federal troops for civilian law enforcement. A century later Congress passed the Military Support for Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies Act 1981 to provide for a role for the military initially in drug interdiction and subsequently in broader domestic law enforcement efforts in the drug war,51 though in all but exceptional circumstances members of the military are still prohibited from direct participation in ‘search, seizure, arrest, or other similar activity’.52

Paramilitary Units in Caribbean Police Forces

In the past decades, Caribbean governments have created specialist paramilitary units that are either entirely separate hybrid police/ military agencies under separate command or specialist paramilitary units nested within police forces. In each of the Caribbean territories studied, new paramilitary policing units had been created with specialist weapons, military training, equipment, and a ‘crime fighting’ ethos. In the Eastern Caribbean countries the Special Services Units serve this function (and fit into a regional capacity to which we return). In general, these units are deployed either in support of anti-crime initiatives such as drug interdiction, in riot control, or in fugitive apprehension. The advantage of these units is that they have power to respond to armed criminals. The logic is that the forces of law and order should be no less well equipped than the ‘forces of evil’ against whom they are pitted. The disadvantages are that these units seem unable to arrest suspects, much more frequently shooting them dead. Sometimes these deaths are the results of fire-fights between armed police and armed criminals. On other (p.162) occasions the deaths have the hallmarks of executions. Moreover, it is often the case that innocent civilians are killed in the process. In Guyana and Jamaica, paramilitary police units have been closed down because of allegations of extra-judicial execution.

The best documented example is the Crime Management Unit (CMU) of the Jamaica Constabulary Force. This was created in September 2000 by former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson and the then Security Minister K.D. Knight in response to extreme levels of criminal violence. Its remit was to respond to armed criminality. CMU head Reneto Adams had a ‘tough-guy image’ which included black combat gear and dark glasses. The Unit found itself embroiled in controversy almost from its inception. In March 2001, the CMU killed seven young people in a house at Braeton, St Catherine and also played a major role in three days of shootings in West Kingston in July 2001 when at least 25 people, including a policeman and a soldier, were killed. It was also alleged that Mr Adams reported directly to the Security Minister, K.D. Knight, and occasionally to the Prime Minister. When K.D. Knight was asked in March 2001 whether he was pleased with the performance of the Crime Management Unit he said:

It’s early days yet, and one doesn’t want to make any definite assessments, but my preliminary view is that it has the capacity to make the difference, particularly if it operates within the parameters of community policing and if it operates along the intelligence driven line.53

By the time that it was disbanded, the CMU was involved in 40 fatal shootings in 30 months. To put that in context, the police have killed an average of 139 civilians per year since 1983.54 In May 2003, CMU officers in pursuit of a suspect, shot dead four of his associates including his girlfriend, another woman, and two men in the village of Crawle. The ballistic and forensic evidence taken from the scene (which had been was disrupted) showed that the people had been shot at short range and were unarmed. With the assistance of a UK senior investigating officer, the scene of the shooting was examined carefully and a thorough investigation was carried out. The head of the CMU and some of his officers (p.163) faced prosecution for murder. Adams was acquitted after what was described as ‘the mother of all trials’ and was received as a hero outside the courtroom.

Regional Security System (RSS)

The Regional Security System for the Eastern Caribbean is a hybrid multinational paramilitary policing organization that brings together both police and military forces. It was created in 1982 to promote cooperation among the member states in:

the prevention and interdiction of traffic in illegal narcotic drugs, in national emergencies, search and rescue, immigration control, fisheries protection, customs and excise control, maritime policing duties, natural and other disasters, pollution control, combating threats to national security, the prevention of smuggling, and in the protection of off-shore installations and exclusive economic zones.55

It is based on a centralized, sub-regional control of specialist paramilitary policing sections, ‘Special Services Units’ (SSUs), which are of platoon size. This includes Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The RSS forces are commanded by 10 security chiefs (seven Police Commissioners and three defence forces commanders). The Central Liaison Office (CLO) answers to the chairman of the RSS who is Prime Minister of one of the participating countries on a revolving basis, annually, and in alphabetical order. The Chair is advised by a council of ministers (of defence and national security) which acts as the ‘supreme policymaking body’. Action is with the consent of the Prime Minister of the country concerned. The RSS treaty establishes individual and collective capacity to assist. It declares that personnel on operations in another member state, in a territorial sea, or exclusive economic zone (EEZ) shall have ‘all the rights, powers, duties, privileges and immunities of the member state in which the operation is taking place’. Also, it establishes the right of hot pursuit within territorial waters and the EEZ. The requesting state has operational control while senior officers of the sending state have ‘tactical control’ over their service personnel’s conduct and discipline. Coastguard vessels on operations or training fly the RSS flag in addition to their (p.164) national flag. A model for the structure of an anti-drugs operation coordinated by the RSS is show in figure 5.1.

The first operation embarked upon by the newly formed RSS was in support of the US military invasion of Grenada in 1983 following the coup d’état and execution of Maurice Bishop. It then acted in Hurricane Hugo in 1989 (affecting Antigua, Saint Kitts, and Montserrat), the aftermath of an attempted coup d’état in Trinidad in 1990, a prison uprising in Saint Kitts Nevis (1994), Hurricanes Luis and Marilyn in Antigua and Saint Kitts, Hurricane George (Saint Kitts and Nevis) and Operation Weedeater (1998, 1999) in Saint Vincent. More recently, they have been deployed to assist with the transfer to a new prison in Saint Lucia (2003) and to quell a prison uprising in Barbados (2006). The system is coordinated by a Central Liaison Office based in Barbados. Here are situated the RSS coordinator, the air-wing, and a centralized training facility. This facility does maritime law enforcement training and land-based training, aiming to develop a paramilitary capacity, by exposing police officers to ‘military type training’. An interviewee explained that:

this was necessary because not all of the countries have defence forces, so you had to prepare them to deal with any military threat, at least to make us take a stand initially until we get support. But we didn’t only train all the Police forces, so all seven Police forces have what we call Special Service Units that are actually military type people, they are policemen but selected because of their attitude to this kind of thing.

It is therefore possible to deal with instances of public disorder or civil emergencies in the smaller territories without using the army. As Hills suggests, these units can properly be called paramilitary police units because they can act in lieu of soldiers.56

The funding for the RSS comes entirely from the ABC countries (America, Britain, Canada), principally the USA. The US set up the SSUs in the 1980s as part of its international policing initiative. It provided the resources to equip and train the SSUs and funded the central coordinating facility. One official explained that today:

they are our principal supporters in terms of financial support, logistical support generally and support in terms of training. They give us money or they might give us equipment or they might give us courses that they have funded themselves. For example, our Command and Staff course, which is for today’s officers, is funded between Britain and the US, okay. The basic course that we do used to be funded by Britain but they (p.165)

                   Armed Force, the Military, and Transnational Policing

Figure 5.1 Structure of joint anti-drugs operation, RSS

(p.166) shifted their focus so we had to shift to the US to get support for that. The US fully support the air-wing. The US also provides support for all the Coastguards, in terms of fuel and maintenance. Some countries they give ammunition, right, and they provide training of officers, all of them, America, Canada, Britain for training officers.

Of course that has implications for the dependency of the RSS. As one source put it, ‘all the funding comes from the United States. If that funding ceases, we are in trouble, do you understand?’

Despite an enthusiasm in some quarters for the RSS to be extended beyond the Eastern Caribbean to include Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad, and Tobago, the military personnel that I interviewed from those countries were quite hostile to the idea. They believed that there was an ‘excellent working relationship’ with the RSS ‘in terms of military to military’, but there was a lot of resistance from the Chiefs of Staff for the Regional Security System to be widened beyond the Eastern Caribbean:

We are taken up with all kinds of structures and agreements and so on and I think it’s a load of time wasting. If they say the RSS is working, which they keep saying, I say leave it alone. Military and the Police is oil and water, doesn’t mix. If we want to have some other kind of Treaty, then I say let the military forces have their own thing and then you have the RSS, but you need to have a trigger that brings in the wider military to an RSS issue, but Brigadier Lewis, who was the RSS co-ordinator for many years, far too long, you have to look at motives too, everybody wants to be a General, so if we could bring this thing broader, what does it do for me? We are not in that game and we’re not playing that game, so this expanded RSS thing is not supported from here.

There was a very keen awareness of the sense that US funding of the RSS resulted in its agenda being largely set by the USA:

the RSS has two [surveillance aircraft] but they determine how the RSS pay for the pilot, they pay for everything, and once you do that, we look at it and say, ‘Well, you know, they are running the show’ and they do not take into consideration our sovereignty and our need to patrol our territorial waters, as the case may be, so in the case of [this country], we say, ‘Alright, thanks mate but no thanks, we will purchase our own surveillance aircraft’. If we do so then we don’t have anyone to tell us. If we are part of the RSS, then we are locked into a situation where we have to, they say ‘who pay the piper calls the tune’, and we are not prepared for somebody to keep calling the tune for us all the time.

Another Chief of Staff expressed an equally strident view. He argued that the larger territories are unhappy with the ‘doorway’ used by (p.167) the larger metropolitan countries to access territorial areas through the RSS. What he meant by this ‘doorway’ is that under the RSS agreement, a vessel from any the RSS countries can go into the territorial seas of any other. The kinds of problems that the Chiefs of Staff envisaged were the question of who was going to fund it, that there were other strategic partners within the sub-region including Cuba, Haiti, and Columbia that were at least as important as others within CARICOM, and that regional agreements often require ‘watering down’ because of the people that need to be satisfied. There was some deep distrust between the countries that agreements reached have too many reservations. As one Chief of Staff put it, ‘we are not too interested in a broader CARICOM thing because the broader you get these Agreements, the more watered down it becomes’.

Operation ‘Weedeater’

Few policing operations bring the image of the ‘forces of Babylon’ into sharper focus than Weedeater, a series of cannabis eradication operations conducted in collaboration between Caribbean police forces and US marines. It is believed that most of the marijuana grown in Saint Vincent is for consumption within the Eastern Caribbean. Commencing in 1995, two- and three-week operations were carried out in Trinidad, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent. In each case, the marijuana fields are located in regions that are difficult to access on foot and are therefore accessed by US military helicopters. In December 1998, 120 officers from the Regional Security System and 100 US marines joined with US State Department and US DEA officials in Operation Weedeater. The US Helicopter Marine Light Attack arrived with three HU-1N ‘Hueye’ helicopters and three CH-46 ‘Sea Knight’ helicopters transported to the region by two massive Lockheed C-5 carrier aircraft. The US Marines air-wing was based in nearby Saint Lucia because of its better air support and maintenance facilities. The RSS troops cut and destroyed more than 1.2 million marijuana plants. One hundred and forty-two marijuana curing huts were found and burned. A police officer described the operation:

First of all we get all the people together and we do two days of training, doing rappelling and so on, movement by helicopter and different things and then we go into the fields. We destroy the drugs. We drop off at mornings, pick up at late afternoons and come back and we go all over again. If we make prisoners, we the Vincentians will do the arrests once we have (p.168) prisoners. Whatever exhibit we have, we also keep them, and we destroy whatever marijuana we meet, we cut them down, we burn them, we work with our kerosene and burn them right in the field.

In December 1999, a similar operation was carried out.57 This time, the operation burned more than 5 million marijuana plants, 7 tonnes of cured ganja, and destroyed 250 cedar wood huts. These serve a purpose equivalent to a garden shed, for shelter, storage for farm tools, and a sleeping place for the person who will watch over the crop close to harvest time. During this operation 13 farmers were arrested. On the last day of the operation, one farmer was killed by a Vincentian police officer.58

All of the people involved with Weedeater were agreed that the attempt to eradicate cannabis production in Saint Vincent failed. The number of marijuana fields was much higher than most people involved in planning the operation believed. One officer complained that ‘there’s just so much of it…To make a significant dent, it’s something that would have to be done on a much more regular basis’.59 A senior Vincentian officer argued that there would need to be a consistent and ongoing approach to eradication in order to ‘defeat’ the growers. Using the current approach, he explained, the marijuana grew back more quickly than they could eradicate it: ‘I can tell you this’, he said, ‘when we are on one hilltop destroying…their guy’s on the other hilltop planting’.

In the light of the obvious ineffectiveness of these operations, one might wonder what the reasons are for the operations. Certainly, it works well as a training exercise. Mark Thackson, US marines acting sergeant major for Weedeater, said that the operation had given him and his unit a unique sense of accomplishment: ‘so often we train, and train, and train, and it can get routine. Operations like this remind us of who we are and what real purpose we serve’.60 For the US, this is a valuable training exercise, providing an opportunity to work in very ‘real’ conditions of asymmetric warfare. In the US press releases, James Mitchell, former Prime Minister of Saint (p.169) Vincent emphasized the fact that the officers carrying out the eradication exercise were largely Vincentian police working with their Eastern Caribbean neighbours under an RSS mandate. However, this was not how the Vincentian ganja growers saw it. For them it was ‘the product of US aggression, the wrath of Babylon’.61 This sense that the ‘Babylon system’ had unleashed its military might runs deep, most acutely among the ganja growers many of whom are Rastafarians of the Nyabinghi order. Axel Klein, who spent time interviewing the growers out in the field, found that while few engaged in collective worship or ritual, there was a strong adherence to a moral code, the wearing of dreadlocks, and the ‘copious consumption’ of ganja.62 The theme of the oppression of Rastas through the criminalization of ganja is a long-standing one in the region and one that is unlikely to disappear anytime soon. In Saint Vincent there is widespread ambivalence about marijuana use and an acceptance that it is seen as sacred by the Rasta community. In Jamaica, the Ganja Commission concluded that its personal use should be decriminalized.63

Junior ‘Spirit’ Cottle—representative of the growers and also employee of the Saint Vincent Department of Forestry64—argues that marijuana growing is ‘the key to our economic independence’.65 As Klein argues, a significant proportion of Saint Vincent’s GDP is accounted for by the trade, a significant proportion of the workforce are engaged in its production or distribution and a high proportion of households are dependent on marijuana income.66 The operation helped Cottle’s United Front for Progress—‘an alliance of revolutionary community groups’ to recruit members and promote its pro-marijuana agenda through protests. Gonsalves recognized that widespread opposition to ganja on moral grounds had shrunk. The attitude within the society is that marijuana ‘was not really bad’. It produces economic advantage and has elevated the social status of some people. There is a clear economic imperative—one fifth of Saint Vincent’s economy arises from its export (p.170) of ganja. As, Tornado, one of the growers, put it: ‘If the Americans destroy all the marijuana in Saint Vincent, they’ll destroy Saint Vincent. It’s the backbone of the economy. It’s our livelihood. And now that the Americans have killed us on bananas, we have no other choice’.67 After Weedeater, the growers’ association (claiming 800 members) demonstrated outside Parliament and wrote to President Bill Clinton claiming compensation for the lost marijuana plants. Then opposition leader Ralph Gonsalves (now Prime Minister) referred to Vincentian ganja as ‘our most successful agricultural diversification project’.68 ‘He also commented that ‘the ganja industry here has not been accompanied by much violence…It’s simply amazing for an industry that generates so much money to have been so free of violence’. There has been no recurrence of Operation Weedeater in Saint Vincent since 1999.69 Reasons for this are numerous. They include the election of Gonsalves as Prime Minister, the failure to pay for the previous operation, the political embarrassment that arose from the previous occasion, and the protests that resulted.

Summary and Conclusion

Colonel Dunlap of the US military believes that ‘the involvement of the armed forces in what might be considered policing or law enforcement activity is posed to increase exponentially in the near future’.70 In his view, this is because the threat of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction have the potential to overwhelm police resources. In the contemporary Caribbean, terrorism or other forms of political violence cannot be ruled out,71 but it is (p.171) the possibility of breakdown of social order and armed violence stemming from the clandestine drug trade that give police commanders and Chiefs of Staff most cause for concern. This chapter suggests that there is a complex relationship between police and military force. Police forces have, since their origins, the power to muster armed force, and soldiers have undertaken police duties. Nonetheless, it seems that the worldwide process of ‘policeization’ of the military is occurring simultaneously with the militarization of the police.72 However, it should be borne in mind that in this region, police forces in general have a history of being militarized in their ethos and training. This produces a conundrum. Caribbean police are attempting to shed their military legacy, demilitarizing and democratizing, at the same moment that the forces around them—especially the UK and USA—are themselves extensively militarizing their own police forces. This leads, in the Caribbean context, to a general tendency for police and military forces to converge.

Caribbean defence forces are, in operational terms, working almost exclusively in the policing field. As a British defence advisor put it, the only real role for a military force in the region is in peace support operations, ‘working in support of the police’. Military forces have taken a prominent role in the task of policing, taking numerous forms including its military role as an aid to the civil power during a declared state of emergency, in providing intelligence, logistical, and other support in response to specific threats. In each of the countries studied the primary function of the military was in support of police operations.73 There are, of course, differences from location to location, not least because not all the islands have defence forces. The precise nature of the military involvement with domestic policing varies from place to place, but the key similarity is the shift towards routine involvement in policing activities, above all those involving drug trafficking and armed criminality. In all countries—whether or not they have a defence force—the regular police have a paramilitary policing capacity. This is in place for emergency public order policing, but is also routinely used in support of counter-drugs operations. These units are also the most mobile and therefore are frequently (p.172) called upon in relation to policing and law enforcement activity at borders—and in the case of the SSUs—as part of the Regional Security System (RSS) as part of a concerted transnational force. Several places have armed units within Customs, and in Trinidad and Tobago there is an entirely separate Special Anti-Crime Unit (SAUTT)—a third force—headed by a brigadier and therefore equal in rank to the military Chief of Staff and the Commissioner of Police.

The indications are that Caribbean policing has militarized in recent decades. External and internal security functions are blurred and civilians are targets. There is a new emphasis on intelligence and an ideology of militarism emphasizing the idea that military technology is essential in order maintenance. Military armaments, clothing, and equipment are being acquired and there is evident collaboration and convergence between defence and crime control industries, and the use of military language to describe social problems of crime and disorder.74 In the Caribbean region, taking into consideration the role of the army in policing and the militarization of the police, each of these indicators points in the direction of a greater degree of militarism and militarization.

The espionage and military models of policing have eclipsed the consensual model in the contemporary Caribbean. The military model, the founding formula for colonial policing, remains the guiding philosophy for Caribbean policing and it is upon this that regional transnational policing strategies have been built. Even while the ideology of community policing is being promulgated by security ministers and chiefs of police, its democratic ethos is undermined by the spread of a transnational model based on espionage backed up with military force. Paramilitary structures created, funded, trained, and made operationally viable by Britain and the USA work to an agenda set by these metropolitan countries. The ‘high policing’ systems and structures introduced to supplement post-colonial diplomatic and military involvement in the Cold War against communism have now been turned to provide an adjunct to the wars currently being fought—metaphorically and literally—against organized crime, terrorism, and the drugs trade (see Chapter 4). The ‘military’ and ‘spy’ models of policing succeed because they are both inherently transnational in their (p.173) historical origins and contemporary essence. The military model was designed for export to control British interests in the colonies and travels well. Its military origins lend themselves precisely to the goals of providing force against foreign nations and against the so-called ‘enemy within’. The intelligence-led paradigm is similarly designed to move freely across national borders (within limits prescribed by diplomacy rather than democracy) to provide the knowledge required for military action to proceed. We should hardly be surprised that the military and intelligence-led paradigms of policing tend to eclipse the community-led paradigm in the transnational sphere. This is troubling because the policing paradigm that can be fully democratic is the ‘community-led’ model. This paradigm privileges direct communication between police and public and is based upon the principles of openness, transparency, and democratic accountability. It follows that neither the ‘military-led’ nor ‘intelligence-led’ models of policing— which I take to be two sides of the same coin—offer the prospect of democratic policing. The colonial-military paradigm in policing is anti-democratic in its origins and essence. It is explicitly authoritarian and is designed for use against non-citizens who have no basis upon which to call police-soldiers to account. The espionage paradigm (see Chapter 4), with its secrecy and lack of transparency suffers a similar lack of accountability to the wider community.

It may also be that the military and community paradigms of policing are, in fact, intertwined rather than distinct. DeMichele and Kraska,75 noting that that military-led and community-led models of policing have emerged simultaneously, argue that the two models can be applied in an ideologically and operationally consistent manner.76 Thus, paramilitary policing units (also known as SWAT teams) can be used to conduct saturation patrols, aggressive stop-search, and field interviews to deal with so-called ‘quality of life issues’ as part of a departmental emphasis on community policing.77 Thus, the ‘softer, regulatory aspects of community policing can be intertwined with the hard edge of paramilitary policing tactics’,78 creating a ‘type of harmony’—like the old metaphor of the iron fist in the velvet glove—between community (p.174) policing (especially the ‘zero tolerance’ strand) and paramilitary policing. Grimshaw and Jefferson argue that community policing is hegemonic work, required to provide legitimation for the use of coercive power.79

Finally, there is the question of the effectiveness of military and paramilitary force in controlling crime. Views are divided about the extent to which paramilitary policing practices provoke or prevent public disorder.80 Paramilitary policing has not proved to be particularly effective in reducing crime (except perhaps in extremis). In general, paramilitary police action seems able to suppress the symptoms of social disorder but at an unacceptable cost to the body politic and indeed to human life. Some paramilitary police and soldiers undertaking policing functions have executed their powers much more harshly than their regular counterparts—with extra-judicial execution being common at certain places and times. Armed units—whether they are military, quasi-military, or paramilitary— sometimes fail to arrest suspects or bring them to justice. In such conditions, the threat of extra-judicial killing becomes a threat to democracy. The increased use of the military in policing has not universally led to increased or decreased levels of deadly force, but it has in certain key instances included the shooting of armed criminals by the police—for example, in Guyana and in Jamaica. Similar experiences have also been documented in South America81 and India.82 In some instances, the military involvement in policing has led to severe loss of life, but the contemporary examples in Trinidad (p.175) and Jamaica suggest that soldiers are generally more careful with the trigger than their police colleagues.

The examples discussed in this chapter point to a complex relationship between police and armed force. The possession of firearms and military training for riot-control and counter-insurgency has long been a part of the police organization. The early Metropolitan Police Commissioners wore swords, still displayed in the Commissioner’s office in London’s New Scotland Yard. Caribbean police forces always had access to arms. More recently, the paramilitary power of the police has been enhanced in various forms, including by powerful weapons and armour. Where defence forces exist, these are largely working in support of the police. As we shall see in the next chapters, there are numerous other organizations, including the coastguard—which answer to the Chief of Staff—and border protection agencies that also collaborate with the military. We turn in the next chapter to an exploration of the role of Customs, immigration, and airport security authorities before returning in the concluding chapter to the questions about accountability and control raised by this blurring of the boundaries between police, military, and border protection agencies.


(1) Charles Dunlap (2001), ‘The Thick Green Line: The Growing Involvement of Military Forces in Domestic Law Enforcement’ in Peter Kraska (ed) (2001), Militarising the American Criminal Justice System: The Changing Roles of the Armed Forces and the Police. Boston: Northeastern University Press, op cit, 35.

(2) President Lyndon Johnson was the first US president to call for a ‘war on crime’ in 1966. Nixon, Reagan, Bush Snr., Clinton, and Bush Jnr. have all contributed to a ‘militarized crime control discourse’. Peter Kraska (2001), ‘Crime Control as Warfare: Language Matters’ in Peter Kraska (ed), Militarising the American Criminal Justice System: The Changing Roles of the Armed Forces and the Police. Boston: Northeastern University Press.

(3) Susanne Krassman (2007), ‘The Enemy on the Border: Critique of a Programme in Favour of a Preventive State’, Punishment and Society, 9/3: 301–18, espp 301. Krassman associates the academic development of this idea with the work of Gunther Jakobs, a German professor of criminal law.

(4) Ibid, p 302.

(5) Militarization: the action of making something military in character or style, transforming it to military methods or status, especially by the provision or expansion of military forces and other resources. Military (adj): 1. Of or relating to warfare or defence; adapted to or connected with a state of war; designed for military use. Of, relating, or belonging to armed forces or an army (now freq. opposed to civil or civilian). 2a. Of, relating to, or characteristic of a soldier or soldiers; used, performed, or brought about by soldiers; befitting a soldier. b. Of fashion, colours, etc.: resembling the clothes worn by soldiers. 3a. having the characteristics of a soldier; soldierly; attitude, bearing, or conduct: characteristic of a soldier. b. Of a person, class of people, etc.: engaged in the life of a soldier; belonging to the army. Oxford English Dictionary.

(6) ‘An ideology that stresses aggressiveness, the use of force, and the glorification of military power, weaponry and technology as the means to solve problems’. Peter Kraska (2001), ‘Playing War: Masculinity, Militarism and Their Real-World Consequences’ in Kraska, Militarising the American Criminal Justice System, op cit, p 153.

(7) L. Zedner, (2006), ‘Policing before and after the Police: The Historical Antecedents of Contemporary Crime Control’, British Journal of Criminology, 46/1: 78–96.

(8) The definition of ‘paramilitary’ policing is contested in the scholarly literature. In The case against paramilitary policing Tony Jefferson (1990) defines it as the ‘application of quasi-military training, equipment, philosophy and organisation to…policing’. Alice Hills (1995), ‘Militant Tendencies: “Paramilitarism” in the British Police’, British Journal of Criminology, 35: 3 considers this too broad, defining ‘paramilitary’ as a role undertaken by organizations operating an essentially internal security function, and ‘whose training, organization, equipment and control suggest they may be usable in support, or in lieu, of full-time active or reserve armed forces’. She adds that ‘it can also be a description of a style of policing’—which is what she suggests that Jefferson does—‘but, if it is, it should be made clear that the term is being used as a metaphor’. I think that the OED has it about right: ‘adj : of or relating to a group of civilians organized to function like (or in aid of) a military unit n : a group of civilians organized in a military fashion (especially to operate in place of or to assist regular army troops) [syn: paramilitary force, paramilitary unit, paramilitary organization]’.

(9) Trinidad and Tobago, for example, being very close to Venezuela with its open coastline and proximity to a major shipping lane coming out of Maricaribo, has more involvement with Venezuela than most of its neighbours, with a specific local operation, Ventri, to coordinate between them. Guyana has border disputes with its neighbours, so is the territory with the greatest need for a military for traditional purposes of physically protecting the border from an attempt from Suriname or Venezuela (both of whom claim territory) (see Griffith (1997), Drugs and Security in the Caribbean: Sovereignty Under Siege. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press).

(10) Roger Buckley (1988), The British Army in the West Indies. Gainsville: University Press of Florida; Brian Dyde (1997), The Empty Sleeve: The Story of the West India Regiments of the British Army. St John’s, Antigua: Hansib Caribbean.

(11) Rene Chartrand and Paul Chappell (1996), British Forces in the West Indies 1793–1815. Osprey Publishing.

(12) Ibid.

(13) Lieutenant-General Sir John Vaughan, in a letter to the Home Secretary, 22 December 1794, cited by Brian Dyde (1997), The Empty Sleeve, op cit.

(14) Roger Buckley (1988), The British Army in the West Indies, op cit.

(15) Harriott (2002), ‘Mission Effectiveness, Environmental Change and the Reconfiguration of the Jamaican Security Forces’, Security and Defence Studies Review, 2/1: 24.

(16) I undertook taped interviewed with Chiefs of Staff, infantry commanders, operations commanders, and coastguard commanders in the various countries studied. I also interviewed numerous other soldiers and two retired Chiefs of Staff. I observed the two-day Caribbean Chiefs of Staff conference in Trinidad, March 2004.

(17) Griffith (1997), Drugs and Security in the Caribbean, op cit, lists all such disputes.

(18) Dunlap (2001), ‘The Thick Green Line’, op cit, p 34.

(19) Dunlap (2001), ‘The Thick Green Line’, op cit, p 34.

(20) Ibid.

(21) There have been two occasions when the region’s defence forces have operated together as a region, first operation Urgent Fury (Grenada) and Operation Restore Democarcy, UN Mission in Haiti.

(22) David H. Bayley (1979), ‘Police Function, Structure and Control in Western Europe and North America: Comparative Historical Studies’ in N. Morris and M. Tonry (eds), Crime and Justice: A Review of Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; David H. Bayley (1985), Patterns of Policing. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press; Rob Mawby (1990), Comparative Policing Issues: The British and American Experience in International Perspective. London: Routledge.

(23) P.A.J. Waddington (1999), ‘Armed and Unarmed Police’ in Rob Mawby (ed), Policing Across the World: Issues for the Twenty First Century. London: UCL Press; Marcus Dubber (2005), The Police Power. New York: Columbia University Press.

(24) In 1819, the cavalry charged a crowd of 60–80,000 in St Peters Fields, Manchester, leaving at least 11 dead and many hundreds wounded, many inflicted by cutlass blows.

(25) Townsend points out that Metropolitan Police uniform ‘was distinctly military, in colour, cut, and accoutrement, and became gradually more so. The famous helmet…was directly modelled on the Prussianized headgear adopted by the army after the German victory over France in 1871’, C. Townsend (1993), Making the Peace: Public Order and Public Security in Modern Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

(26) Ibid, p 17.

(27) Clive Emsley (1983), Policing and Its Context 1750–1870. London: Macmillan.

(28) T. Critchley (1970), The Conquest of Violence. London: Constable; Pete Gill (1970), Rounding Up the Usual Suspects: Developments in Contemporary Law Enforcement Intelligence. Aldershot: Ashgate, p 196.

(29) Michael Ignatieff (1979), ‘Police and People: The Birth of Mr Peel’s “Blue Locusts”’, New Society, 30 August, reprinted in Tim Newburn (ed) (2004), Policing: Key Readings. Cullompton: Willan, at p 26.

(30) Critchley (1970), op cit, at p 29.

(31) John Brewer (1994), Black and Blue. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp 5–10; Georgina Sinclair (2006), At the End of the Line: Colonial Policing and the Imperial Endgame 1945–80. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

(32) Mike Brogden (1987), ‘The Emergence of the Police – the Colonial Dimension’. British Journal of Criminology, 27/1.

(33) Trevor Jones and Tim Newburn (1996), Policing and Disaffected Communities: A Review of the Literature. A Report to the Standing Advisory Committee on Human Rights. London: Policy Studies Institute, p 3–4.

(34) Trevor Jones and Tim Newburn (1996), Policing and Disaffected Communities, op cit.

(35) Mike Brogden (1987), ‘The Emergence of the Police – the Colonial Dimension’, op cit.

(36) Paul Gilroy (2004), After Empire: Melancholia or Convivial Culture?. London: Routledge, p 47.

(37) John Newsinger (2006), The Blood Never Dried: A People’s History of the British Empire. London: Pluto Press, pp 31–2; Paul Gilroy, After Empire, op cit.

(38) Humphrey Metzgen and John Graham (2007), Caribbean Wars Untold: A Salute to the British West Indies. Kingston, Jamaica: University of West Indies Press, p 78.

(39) Gabrielle Pratt and Morris A. Simmons (1990), A History of the Royal Bahamas Police Force. Bahamas: The Research and Planning Unit of the Royal Bahamas Police Force.

(40) Harriott (2000), Police and Crime Control in Jamaica: Problems of Reforming Ex-Colonial Constabularies. Kingston, Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press.

(41) In Alexanderville and Normanville.

(42) Harriott (2000), op cit, 117.

(43) Ibid, 93.

(44) Ibid, 125.

(45) Tony Jefferson (1990), The Case Against Paramilitary Policing. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.

(46) Martin Kettle (1985), ‘The National Reporting Centre and the 1984 Miners’ Strike’ in Bob Fine and Robert Millar (eds), Policing the Miners’ Strike. London: Lawrence and Wishart; see also Phil Scraton (ed) (1987), Law, Order & the Authoritarian State. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.

(47) Scarman Report, paras 5.72–5.74.

(48) Peter Kraska and Victor Kappeler (1997), ‘Militarizing American Police: The Rise and Normalization of Paramilitary Units’, Social Problems, 44.

(49) L. Hartz (1979), ‘A Comparative Study of Fragment Cultures’ in H.D. Graham and T.R. Gurr (eds), Violence in America: Historical and Comparative Perspectives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

(50) W.S. Fields and D. Hardy (1992), ‘The Military and the Constitution: A Legal History’, Military Law Review, 136: 9–13.

(51) See also Ethan Nadelman (1993), Cops Across Borders: The Internationalization of U.S. Criminal Law Enforcement. University Park, PA: Penn State Press.

(52) Quoted in Dunlap (2001), ‘The Thick Green Line’, op cit.

(53) ‘Security Minister under the Microscope’, Jamaica Gleaner, 25 March 2001.

(54) Susan Goffe (2004), ‘Watching the Watchdogs: A Jamaican NGO’s Experience with Lobbying for Policing Oversight and Accountability’. Paper presented at the Independent Complaints Directorate Conference for Policing Oversight and Accountability, 26–29 January 2004, Johannesburg, South Africa.

(55) Treaty Establishing the Regional Security System (1996).

(56) Alice Hills (1995), ‘Militant Tendencies’, op cit.

(57) The Los Angeles Times, 16 January 2000; San Jose Mercury News, 6 February 2000.

(58) see Axel Klein (2004), ‘The Ganja Industry and Alternative Development’ in Axel Klein, Marcus Day, and Anthony Harriott (eds), Caribbean Drugs: From Criminalization to Harm Reduction. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers and Zed Books, London.

(59) DEA agent cited in Marine magazine.

(60) Master Sgt. Mark Thackson of Hiram, Ga. Cited in Marine Online Magazine, January 1997.

(61) Klein (2004), 231.

(62) Ibid, 231.

(63) National Commission on Ganja (Chair Professor Barry Chevannes) (2001),A Report of the National Commission on Ganja, to the Rt Hon P.J. Patterson, QC MP, Prime Minister of Jamaica.

(64) Appointed by Gonsalves, Cottle’s job is to assist the ganja growers to work in such a way that hillside erosion is minimized.

(65) Los Angeles Times, 16 January 2000, by Mark Fineman.

(66) Klein (2004), 226.

(67) Los Angeles Times, 16 January 2000.

(68) Ibid.

(69) ‘Operation Weedeater’ US airlift-assisted eradication exercises in St. Vincent and the Grenadines scheduled for autumn 2001 were postponed due to US military airlift resource constraints arising from homeland defence requirements and the war in Afghanistan. 〈www.state.gov/documents/organization/8697.pdf〉. There has been one more recent operation in Trinidad in 2002.

(70) Charles Dunlap, op cit, p 32.

(71) The only major instance of politically motivated sabotage leading to loss of life is the 1976 bombing of a Cubana Airlines flight from Barbados by a Cuban dissident group with links to the CIA. In recent years, there have been a small number of ‘rubbish bin’ and channa bomb attacks in Trinidad. Some argue that there are linkages between armed drug traffickers and terrorist organizations—referring to ‘narcoterrorism’. cf Stephen Vasciannie (2004), ‘Security, Terrorism and Inter national Law: A Skeptical Comment’ in Ivelaw Griffith (ed), Caribbean Security in the Age of Terror: Challenge and Change. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers.

(72) Peter Kraska (2001), ‘Playing War: Masculinity, Militarism and Their Real-World Consequences’ in Kraska (ed), p 152.

(73) ‘Crime-Busters: Jamaican Forces in Front Line of Island’s Violent War against Drugs and Extortion’, Soldier, Magazine of the British Army, August 2005, p 30–1.

(74) Ibid, p 17.

(75) Matthew DeMichele and Peter Kraska (2001), Community Policing in Battle Garb: A Paradox of Coherent Strategy? in Peter Kraska (ed), op cit, p 82–104.

(76) Ibid, p 97.

(77) Ibid, p 95.

(78) Ibid, p 96.

(79) Roger Grimshaw and Tony Jefferson (1985), Interpreting Policework. London: Allen & Unwin.

(80) Tony Jefferson (1990), The Case Against Paramilitary Policing, see fn 46; P.A.J. Waddington (1993), ‘The Case against Paramilitary Policing Considered’, British Journal of Criminology, 33/3: 353–70; Tony Jefferson (1993), ‘Pondering Paramilitarism: A Question of Standpoints?’, British Journal of Criminology, 33/3: 374–81. See also Alice Hills (1995), ‘Militant Tendencies: “Paramilitarism” in the British Police’, British Journal of Criminology, 35/3: 450–8 and P.A.J. Waddington (2008), ‘Policing Public Order and Political Contention’ in Tim Newburn, Handbook of Policing. Cullompton: Willan.

(81) Mercedes Hinton (2006), The State on the Streets: Police and Politics in Argentina and Brazil. Boulder and London: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

(82) Jyoti Belur (2007), ‘Police Use of Deadly Force: Analysing Police Encounters in Mumbai’, unpublished Ph. D. thesis, London School of Economics; see also Jyoti Belur (2010), ‘Why do the Police Use Deadly Force?: Explaining Police Encounters in Mumbai’, British Journal of Criminology, 50/2: 320–41.