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A Grenada Story: Changing the narrative of male Underachievement

A former police constable from the Royal Grenada Police Force aims to challenge the negative stereotype of his community by showcasing the positive outcomes that can arise from economically disadvantaged areas, even in the face of adversity.

Shem Che Walker, senior compliance specialist

Through his journey of overcoming hard times, Shem Che Walker, a former police constable at the Royal Grenada Police Force, has shown that it is possible to achieve success even under difficult circumstances.

At the age of 37, Walker finally completed his Master’s in International Security and Risk Management from the University of West London and is currently a senior compliance specialist at a local financial institution.

But Walker said he was only able to escape his reality through advancing his formal education – a journey that started from humble beginnings in the community of Telescope, St Andrew in an environment plagued by crime and violence. There is a saying in the Isle of Spice that “nothing good comes from Telescope”. Despite being the biggest village in Grenada, the government has neglected it, leaving no functional community center or library to inspire and nurture talented individuals. Growing up in a single-parent household led by his mother only dimmed Walker’s chances at success. 

After graduating from the St Andrew Anglican Secondary School in 2003 he would quickly come to discover that employment options were limited. “There were times that I faced challenges which tested my ability to stay focused; however, God quickly guided me back on the right path,” he said.

Walker felt compelled to step forward and share his personal experience after reading an article which looked at the recent spate of crime in the community of Telescope. The article published on The Caribbean Investigative Journalism Network (CIJN) entitled “Prison–a Destination for Young Men” explored the rate of male academic underachievement and its link to crime. 

“I also remembered my mother’s sacrifices to provide for me as a child. I wanted to make her proud and be a productive member of my community. I was also determined to set an example for the youths of my community that it is possible to accomplish anything with the right mindset and staying focused,” Walker said.

Walker said his community lacks programs geared towards supporting young men and he would like to see the authorities focus more on interventions. He recommends establishing a mentorship program involving ambitious, well-known, and respected men within the community who will provide guidance to young men.

“Young men must be presented with a clear path to being productive members of society, which will encourage them to turn away from a life of crime and violence,” he said.

In hindsight, he recalled that his primary motivation for becoming a police officer was to bring about positive change in law enforcement. However, as destiny would have it, his inherent curiosity in investigating those crimes evolved into a career focused on International Security and Risk Management.

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Shem Che Walker Providing training on the importance of conducting customer due diligence to real-estate agents in 2022.

The Making of Shem Che Walker 

After feeling that his skills were being underutilized as a police officer, Walker was offered a chance to work in the field of Financial Intelligence in 2018, and eagerly seized the opportunity to join the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). This allowed him the freedom to pursue further education. During his time at the Financial Intelligence Unit, Walker was able to receive training in Anti-Money Laundering, Counter Terrorism Financing, financial investigation, asset recovery, prosecution and cyber security.

“Historically,” he said, “the FIU was referred to by many officers and members of the public as an elite unit with officers who are highly professional, educated, well-trained, and operate with the highest level of integrity. Therefore, working as a financial investigator at the FIU was something that I aspired to do.”

After two and a half years at the FIU, Walker was assigned to the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorist Financing Commission (AML/CTF) as the Acting Executive Director in September 2020. However, his career pursuits did not come without their challenges. 

Upon assuming the new role, his academic qualifications and experience came under scrutiny in an article published in a local newspaper with the headline “New boss at anti-money laundering agency”. The article questioned the rationale behind the decision to appoint Walker to the post, despite him serving for over fifteen years’ as a Police Officer, within the force and having already attained a Bachelor of Arts in Business Management from Edinburgh Napier University and a Criminology Diploma, from Elearn College, completed several recognised courses in the field of AML/CFT locally, regionally and internationally, attaining the designation of Certified Anti Money Laundering Specialist (CAMS), a member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, expert witness on the Eastern Caribbean Polymer Bank Note, and having experience as a financial investigator and analyst.

As a senior compliance specialist at a local financial institution, Walker continues to make a name for himself in the area of financial intelligence and AML/CFT Compliance, the execution of his duties is constantly confronted with varying threats, which include cyber threats. He believes that managing risks associated with money laundering and terrorist financing is crucial to Grenada as we are part of the global financial landscape therefore; we are within the reach of bad actors.

“Failure to implement effective AML/CFT measures can result in reputational damage, fines or loss of intermediary banking relationships, affecting our ability to make payments for essential products and services,” he said. “Financial institutions are, therefore, mandated to have systems to effectively manage all types and levels of risk associated with conducting business.”

During his tenure at the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorist Financing Commission (AML/CTF). Walker helped strengthen Grenada’s AML/CFT regime, as he worked with regulated entities to implement measures to detect, prevent, and forestall financial crimes. Walker participated and played a key role in coordinating several important national initiatives, which include providing AML/CFT training to regulated entities from various sectors, which included Banks, Credit Unions, Law Firms, Insurance Companies and Car dealers. He was involved in the completion of a ML National Risk Assessment in 2019, a National AML/CFT Policy, National Terrorism Financing Risk Assessment in 2021 and played a key role in presenting Grenada’s AML/CFT systems and controls during the countries 4th Round Mutual Evaluation by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force in 2021/2022.

What’s next for Walker

In an era where technological advancements can fuel both progress and peril, Walker wants to shine the spotlight on the ever-evolving realm of cyber risks, believing that use of technology can provide significant benefits to organisations and their customers. 

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He is a proponent of cyber liability insurance as an essential consideration in doing business within this growing technological and financial landscape.

“Protecting the deposits of customers is also an essential consideration. Presently, there is no deposit insurance to protect the deposits of customers and members; however, the Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, Timothy Antoine, spoke of the importance of establishing deposit insurance for the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union in several public forums,” he said.

Walker has indicated that he is presently making arrangements to commence his Doctoral Degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice with a well recognised and accredited University in the United Kingdom. He intends to start this new journey in September of this year.

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