By Ackroyd, Margolis, Rosenhead and Shallice,
Pelican Books 1977

Reviewed by Bob Thomson

In response to potential wide-spread unrest in the English-speaking Caribbean, the doctrine of national security is being proclaimed frequently these days by national elites which see their privileged positions threatened by both growing labour militancy and the penetration of their economic preserves by transnational corporations. The appearance of this book based on the British experience in policing Northern Ireland is timely, in that many techniques used in that conflict might be usefully transferred to Britain's former Caribbean colonies to bolster the positions of national elites so crucial to the present structure of neo-colonial relationships.

The Northern Ireland experience may be more useful than the American experience in Latin America or South-East Asia as it takes place within a liberal parliamentary democracy, where the maintenance of unequal power relationships beyond the sphere of parliamentary influence is facilitated by the appearance of political openings for dissent, openings which have been snuffed out to a large extent in Latin America by overt repression. The value of parliamentary democracy for the maintenance of an unjust distribution of power and wealth cannot be underestimated in this age of clamouring for Human Rights and the complex network of subtle control outlined in this book bears witness to the finesse available to politicians today for the maintenance of the status quo.

The British Development Division (BDD) based in Barbados has a Police Advisor responsible for police training and equipment programmes in the Eastern Caribbean. It is said that the Police Advisor, Mr. Murdock McKenzie, has experience in Viet Nam, as well as Great Britain. This programme has funded a wide range of activities, among them: the construction of new police stations in Antigua, St. Vincent and Dominica; core support for the regional police training Centre at Seawell in Barbados; training in riot control; purchase of police dogs in Dominica; and probably many others which are almost impossible to trace due to BDD's secretiveness about the use of British tax monies in this particular area.

A partial list of control mechanisms outlined in this book is: development of non- lethal weapons (eg. tear gas, rubber bullets); collection of low level information and collation of it by computer; use of laws designed to handle special circumstances (eg. terrorism and Public Order Acts); electronic and optical surveillance; "scientific" management leading to dehumanization of planning; sensory deprivation torture and interrogation which leaves psychological rather than physical scars and therefore appears less brutal; preparation for widespread preventive detention of potential "troublemakers" (eg. Quebec 1970, Chile 1973); special communications systems for deployment of forces of law and order (command and control); community police programmes to give a human face to military force; and many more.

Many such steps appear innocuous by themselves. Indeed few would argue that there is no need for the policing of anti-social behaviour. When taken as a whole however, they can lead to the gradual development of a system of control which is not resisted until it is too late. This was the experience of Latin America in the 1960's. Several examples serve to demonstrate that this may now be occurring in the English- speaking Caribbean.

Police and Defence forces have historically emphasised merit for promotion in the Commonwealth Caribbean, with the result that many members of police forces have working class backgrounds. This, combined with the close contacts of small island societies, makes it difficult to ask a police force to take open military action against the general population in the event of widespread civil unrest. St. Lucia has recently changed the basis for promotion from strictly merit to the use of academic excellence, which in the long run will ensure preference for middle-class recruits who are in a better position to take advantage to the formal education system, and who of course are more likely to defend the interests of the local elites.

A sophisticated "Walkie-Talkie" was recently seen carried by police in St.. Vincent and advertised in the Barbados Advocate-News which transmits a coded signal receivable only by similarly equipped personnel, thus permitting security of police communications. The existence of such equipment presumes the possibility of widespread and well-organized dissent and the need to control it, rather than the conditions which spawn it. On the day that the new police station was opened in St. Vincent, the major high school on the island could not be opened, as there were only 400 desks for 800 students. Perhaps this is indicative of the relative priorities of the government between police and educational services.