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Former commissioner Matthews refutes claims made by HOA speaker alleging hiring of regional criminals after 2017 hurricanes

Former commissioner Matthews refutes claims made by HOA speaker alleging hiring of regional criminals after 2017 hurricanes

The recent statement made by Speaker of the House of Assembly Julian Willock which alleges that the former Commissioner of Police Michael Matthews hired criminals from across the region to assist the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force following the 2017 hurricanes, is being labelled as false and damaging.

Former Commissioner Matthews responded to the claims made in Willock’s Position Statement which was submitted to the Commission of Inquiry (COI).

Paragraph 20 of Willock’s statement read “immediately after hurricanes Irma and Maria the Commissioner of Police hired a number of foreign nationals as police officers without doing the appropriate background checks whatsoever, in fact it is extremely likely that he would have hired persons that were well known criminals elsewhere in the region.”

Inaccurate, false, fabricated

Matthews said the paragraph was brought to his attention and felt it was best to pen a letter to the Commissioner of Inquiry Sir Gary Hickinbottom to present an accurate understanding to the COI of what exactly occurred.

He said, “This statement is false, inaccurate and in my view defamatory towards myself as the Commissioner of Police at the relevant time highlighted. To my knowledge the Hon. Speaker was not part of the Government of the BVI at that time, nor present in any meetings where security decisions were agreed, including the decision to seek assistance from external police forces.”

“The statement made by the Hon. Speaker is pure fabrication, and certainly is clearly not based upon any knowledge of the subject that he seeks to use as an example. His baseless allegations are an affront to all of the hard-working officers that supported the BVl at a time of exceptional need,” he further said.

All the appropriate channels utilized for unarmed officers

Matthews assured Sir Hickinbottom that all the appropriate measures were taken following the devastation that was caused to the territory by the hurricanes, which resulted in only 40 percent of his force being active.

He said, “With operational responsibility for security at the time, I immediately recommended to the Governor, Mr. Gus Jaspert that we invoke ‘mutual aide’ procedures from the United Kingdom to urgently increase policing resources within the territory. This was discussed and agreed with the then Premier, Dr Orlando Smith and those BVI Government Ministers available at the time.”

“An approach was made to the UK Home Office via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and agreement reached with National Police Chiefs Council to provide unarmed uniformed officers to the territory, to supplement the RVIPF. All UK officers are vetted on appointment to their relevant UK force, and every officer deployed was selected by the Chief Constable in charge of the force that they were seconded from,” Matthews further explained.

Protocols also followed to acquire armed officers

The former top cop also said that similar measures were taken to acquire armed police officers, who had to be obtained from other UK Overseas Territories.

“Using the existing mutual aid Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreed with the other UK Overseas Territories Police Commissioners, I was able to source highly trained firearms response officers from the Bermuda Police Service and the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service,” Matthews stated.

He added, “I am aware that both Bermuda and Cayman forces have vetting procedures in place as part of their normal recruitment policies as well as additional vetting requirements for firearms officers.”

Matthews said that it would have been reckless and irresponsible if he would have attempted to supplement policing and security in the BVI with anyone else other than existing experienced officers from other affiliated jurisdictions.

He said all due diligence was undertaken to ensure the safety and security of the residents of the British Virgin Islands.


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