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Caribbean Islands Table of Contents

Caribbean Islands

National Security

The Royal Barbados Police Force

Domestic police duties in Barbados are the responsibility of the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF). Originally established under British colonial rule in 1835, the RBPF was one of the most professional and effective of Caribbean police forces. According to the Constitution, appointments to the force are made by the governor general, acting in accordance with the recommendations of the Police Commission. Overall command of the RBPF is vested in the police commissioner.

According to mid-1980s press reports, the RBPF was in the process of expanding its membership from 1,000 to about 1,200. The increase, initially resisted by the BLP government, was eventually undertaken at the urging of the police commissioner and the leadership of the opposition DLP, which had attempted to score political points by portraying the BLP as unresponsive to a perceived increase in the crime rate.

The crime rate in Barbados was generally higher than that of other Eastern Caribbean states, partially as a result of its higher population density (see Population, this section). As a country with a heavy stake in the tourist trade, Barbados has been concerned as much with the foreign perception of its crime rate as with the actual statistics. The Barbadian public and government officials differed to some extent on the nature of the crime problem; the average citizen was seemingly preoccupied with crime on the streets and beaches, whereas government and police spokesmen frequently emphasized the problem of white-collar crime and the corruption that often accompanied it.

One problem on which most parties seemed to agree was that of drug abuse, which appeared to be on the increase in Barbados during the 1980s. The RBPF functioned as the exclusive antinarcotics force on the island, leaving tasks such as maritime interdiction to the Coast Guard. Money laundering, possibly in connection with drug trafficking, was another offense cited by officials to justify increased manpower and improved training for the RBPF. Barbados did not appear to be a major transshipment point for drug traffic to the United States, although in 1985 an RBPF spokesman expressed his belief that some shipments to Western Europe had transited the island.

One indication of heightened public concern with crime was the formation in 1986 of neighborhood watch groups in Bridgetown. The initiation of this process was announced by the attorney general, who emphasized the role of the RBPF in guiding and informing members of these groups.

Most RBPF training was conducted at the Regional Police Training Center situated near Grantley Adams International Airport. Funded and largely staffed by the British, the center conducted courses for both Barbadian and foreign students from other Commonwealth Caribbean police forces, such as those of the Cayman Islands, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the British Virgin Islands. More specialized training for officers was provided at police facilities in Britain.

As of 1987, the RBPF had exclusive responsibility for port security and shared airport security duties with units of the BDF.

Data as of November 1987