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Grenada National Security
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies
    << Back to Grenada Index

    After mid-1985, internal security in Grenada was the responsibility of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF). Although the title of the organization is traditional, the force itself had been reconstituted and its members retrained and reequipped since the United States-Caribbean intervention of October 1983. In the immediate wake of the action by the United States military and the 350-member Caribbean Peace Force (CPF), units of these forces handled police and security duties on the island. The last of the United States military police personnel departed Grenada in June 1985; the remnants of the CPF pulled out shortly thereafter, leaving the new and inexperienced RGPF to fend for itself.

    The RGPF has had a history of personal and political manipulation in Grenada. Under Gairy, the authority and professionalism of the force were undermined by the establishment of personal paramilitary units (such as the infamous "mongoose gang"), which served to intimidate Gairy's opponents and inhibit free expression of political viewpoints on the island. After Gairy's ouster in 1979, Bishop's PRG set about restructuring Grenada's security system along with its governmental, political, and economic systems. Under the PRG, the RGPF continued to exist both in name and in fact--a level of some 350 was maintained --but in practice, the RGPF yielded its responsibilities and its jurisdiction to the People's Revolutionary Army (PRA), a politicized force presumed to be loyal to Bishop and the PRG. Under the Bishop regime, the RGPF was neglected in terms of manpower, funding, training, and equipment. As was the case under the Gairy regime, the police force enjoyed neither the confidence nor the support of the Grenadian people.

    In light of this repressive history, after October 1983 it became clear to both foreign and Grenadian observers that the establishment of an apolitical and professional police force was essential for the development of a representative and pluralistic system of government on the island. The most pressing need in this regard was training. For the United States, meeting this need presented a dilemma of sorts, for United States security assistance to foreign police forces had been prohibited by the United States Congress since the 1960s. Thus, some creative and cooperative programs were required.

    The interim Grenadian government solved the problem by establishing an SSU, an elite eighty-member paramilitary force within the larger RGPF. Apparently both the United States and the leaders of other Caribbean nations had urged the Interim Government to form such a group. The majority of the Caribbean leaders had expressed interest in training similar forces of their own, which eventually could be integrated into a regional security system (see A Regional Security System, ch. 7). The expanded paramilitary mission of the SSU made possible the provision of United States funds through the Military Assistance Program and allowed for training of Grenadian personnel by United States Army Special Forces units.

    The training of the RGPF was facilitated further by the cooperation of the British government. After the initial objections by the Thatcher government to the military intervention were smoothed over, training and assistance to the RGPF constituted one of the major British contributions toward the normalization of affairs in its former colony. Although not overwhelming in terms of numbers or expenditure, British security assistance was timely; three British police advisers were at work on the island by early 1984. Training of RGPF recruits by the British advisers was conducted on the island, mainly at Fort George. More extensive training took place off the island, at the Regional Police Training Center in Barbados (training at both sites was provided at British expense).

    The total training program consisted of three phases. Phase one provided physical conditioning and basic skills for groups of Grenadian recruits during a four-week course under the supervision of United States military personnel. Phase one training also provided an opportunity for instructors to identify those recruits who would be most suitable for service in the paramilitary SSU. A fourteen-week course in basic police procedure constituted phase two for those trainees who had successfully completed the four-week session; this phase was administered by British police advisers. Most of the members of the RGPF underwent only the first two training phases. For those who qualified, phase three provided instruction in the more varied skills required for service in the SSU.

    At the completion of all training phases, the RGPF counted some 600 men and women among its ranks. Included in that total was the eighty-member SSU. The domestic duties of the SSU included airport security, immigration procedures, firefighting, and maritime interdiction (through the Grenadian Coast Guard, also a part of the RGPF). The SSU was available for peacekeeping duties in Grenada or on neighboring islands under the auspices of the RSS.

    The postintervention RGPF was envisioned as an apolitical force performing purely domestic duties. The SSU, in addition to its regional obligations, was also intended to function as a domestic crowd control unit. In an effort to extend the outreach and heighten the profile of the RGPF among the population, the Interim Government of Nicholas Braithwaite expressed interest in reopening community police stations closed by the PRG. The physical disrepair of many of these stations forced the government to put this proposal on hold. Whether or not the RGPF was planning to enhance its community relations and increase its effectiveness through regular patrolling of the island was uncertain, given the traditional station-bound orientation of the force.

    According to an early 1986 report in the Grenadian Voice, the RGPF was considering the establishment of a reserve force of volunteers who would receive police training and be prepared for mobilization under emergency conditions (presumably in case of natural disaster or generalized public unrest).< h4>Civil and Political Unrest

    Some three years after the violent events of October 1983, the potential for serious political unrest in Grenada appeared to be surprisingly low. Although various officials and members of the government had cited the potential threat to stability from disgruntled leftist elements, these pronouncements appeared to have been made primarily to rally domestic political support or to bolster requests for continued high levels of United States aid. For example, in December 1986, following the announcement of death sentences for fourteen of the eighteen defendants in the Bishop murder trial proceedings, Blaize called for the mobilization of SSUs from neighboring islands to reinforce the Grenadian SSU. The prime minister, the police commissioner, and the local media cited increased reports of gunfire around the island and a general upswing in crime and violence as justification for the appeal. The actual level of unrest seemed to be unknown, however, and the link to the trial verdict appeared to be tenuous and speculative at best.

    To be sure, the dramatic actions of October 1983, generally popular though they were among the Grenadian public, did not purge the island of all dissident radical politicians or their sympathizers. The continued existence of the NJM and the establishment of the MBPM provided evidence that some Grenadians still hewed to a hard leftist political orientation. However, the lack of success by the MBPM at the ballot box in December 1984 plus the NJM's failure to contest the elections at all revealed the shallowness of popular support for these groups following years of repression under the PRG and the days of extreme violence that preceded the United States-Caribbean intervention.

    Although the influence of Marxism-Leninism and its major regional proponent, Cuba, on Grenadian politics has been a fairly recent development, political violence has not been uncommon throughout the island's history. Violence carried out by his labor followers brought Gairy to prominence in 1951. The NJM coup of 1979, however, although justified by its participants as a response to Gairy's brutal repression and exploitation, was political violence of a new and different sort for Grenada. Whereas Gairy had abused the system but always maintained its forms, Bishop and his followers delivered the message that the forms themselves were objectionable. The notion that power could be wrested by force and maintained by ideologically justifiable repression is a legacy that the PRG may have left to some younger members of the Grenadian population.

    Civil unrest in Grenada in the postintervention period was minimal. Reports persisted that the crime rate had risen since 1984, and RGPF statistics did indicate increases in violent crime in 1985 and 1986. The reliability of these official statistics was questionable, however, because police work in Grenada was neither painstaking nor very precise. In any case, opinion on the island appeared to reflect increasing concern over the issue of crime. Neighborhood watch organizations were being established, representatives of the private sector were promising aid to these groups as well as to the RGPF, and citizens were calling on the government to take sterner measures.

    Internal security did not appear to be a serious or pressing concern for the Blaize government, despite the prime minister's periodic invocations of the leftist threat (typified by the overreaction to the Bishop murder trial verdict). Despite some problems, most of which could be attributed to the islanders' relative inexperience with a functional democratic system, the return to parliamentary democracy appeared to be proceeding apace in the late 1980s.

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    A number of books on Grenada have been published since 1983. Understandably, most of them focus on the military intervention and the PRG period. Two of the better products are Revolution and Intervention in Grenada by Kai P. Schoenhals and Richard A. Melanson and Grenada: Politics, Economics, and Society by Tony Thorndike. Thorndike's is perhaps the more complete treatment, providing good historical background to a detailed study of post- 1979 events. The best source for topical reporting on Grenada is the Grenada Newsletter, produced in St. George's.

    Specific health and education data are available in the Pan American Health Organization's Health Conditions in the Americas, 1981-84 and Program Budget, 1986-87, the World Population Profile published by the United States Department of Commerce, and the annual report of Grenada's Ministry of Education. An understanding of Grenada's economic status may be obtained from the World Bank's Grenada: Economic Report, the annual Grenada Budget Speech, and annual reports from the Caribbean Development Bank. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

    Data as of November 1987

    NOTE: The information regarding Commonweath of Caribbean Islands on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Grenada National Security information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Grenada National Security should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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Revised 10-Nov-04
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