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National Security, Defense and Military

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The main institutions responsible for security in Barbados are the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) and the Barbados Defence Force, which includes the Coast Guard. Their key supports are the government’s Immigration and Customs departments.

Barbados is also the headquarters of the Regional Security System (RSS) and provides nearly half of its annual budget.

The RBPF, with a current complement of over 1400, dates back to the British colonial days of 1835, when the Barbados legislature passed an Act establishing the force. By 1840 a unit of detectives was up and running and in 1880 the mounted men of the force were organized to form the Mounted Branch.

In 1882 a new police Act provided that the term Police Force shall mean the land police, the Harbour Police and the Corps of Writ servers.

A Military (Police) Band was formed in 1889 and by the following year, 1890, a new Police Act was in force until it was repealed by the Police Act of 1908. The RBPF got its first four women enlisted in 1950.

Today the RBPF is headed by Commissioner Darwin Dottin, with headquarters located in the Barbados capital, Bridgetown. The force also maintains a series of police stations across the island to facilitate a more rapid response to the maintenance of domestic law an order.

The Barbados Defense Force (BDF), estimated to be about 600 strong, was set up in 1978, out of concern by the government of the day that Barbados needed a means to combat threats of destabilization caused by both internal and external forces. The Barbados Defence Act of 1979 set out the framework of the force’s operations.

The BDF is headquartered at St. Ann’s Fort, the Garrison, the parish of St. Michael. It is primarily a military organisation, but assists the Police as needed from time to time. This includes regular collaboration between the Police and the Coast guard in fighting illegal drugs.

Under the laws of Barbados, the Prime Minister of the day is responsible for the island’s security and sits as the Chairman of the Barbados Defense Board.

The private security sector in Barbados is regulated by the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act. This legislation, among other things, handles applications for licences.

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