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STREET VIBE: New year, same nonsense; Why T&T Police can’t win public confidence

“For the TTPS to waddle into 2017 expecting that the murder rate will suddenly change simply on the grounds that the calendar did, is as naive and reckless as those who relied on ‘prayer’ as the best crime plan; even setting aside a day exclusively for this purpose.”

The following Letter to the Editor on the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service’s supposed inability to acknowledge its shortcomings—let alone to work on them—was submitted to Wired868 by Rudy Chato Paul Sr of D’Abadie:

Photo: A protester makes his point to lawmen during demonstrations in Baltimore after the killing of Freddie Gray. (Copyright Sowetanlive.co.za)
Photo: A protester makes his point to lawmen during demonstrations in Baltimore after the killing of Freddie Gray.
(Copyright Sowetanlive.co.za)

Being the armchair criminologist I am—which puts me on par with those as eminently qualified who can be found at the nations’ prestigious academic institutions—I am easily offended when the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) decides to “play smart with stupidness” to quote the current Prime Minister.

That none of the other armchair criminologists see it fit to speak out on this issue is indeed worrisome. Being that the TTPS and their PR team are so fluent at throwing numbers out in the public domain—usually designed to support their all-familiar chorus that “serious crimes is down, except murders”—methinks it’s only fair, and high time, that someone questions their understanding of “serious crimes.”

It becomes quite apparent that murder—that is, the intentional taking of a life, in case the TTPS may have missed it—does not meet their definition of being a “serious enough crime.” And while I have questioned their modus operandi (MO) in the past, I will continue to do so as long as they continue to insult the collective intelligence of members of this society.

For the TTPS to waddle into 2017 expecting that the murder rate will suddenly change simply on the grounds that the calendar did, is as naive and reckless as those who relied on “prayer” as the best crime plan; even setting aside a day exclusively for this purpose.

Their other chorus, that they are “doing the best they can” has all but convinced me that the management of this dysfunctional organisation is, at best, ill-suited for the task at hand, despite their collective years of experience.

Photo: A police officer helps his colleague with his stripes.
Photo: A police officer helps his colleague with his stripes.

They continue to operate on an outdated model, where the ‘village’ has become global, while they were literally asleep at the wheel. If they lack the simple insight and courage to demand the removal of the Star of David as their emblem to be replaced with something more practical and local like the Coat of Arms, then they certainly lack the expertise required to identify serious crimes and their consequences on the psyche of the population.

And while our nation is mired in 1.4 million challenges at this time, neither time nor space allows for an analysis of more than a couple at a time. Crime, and by extension the TTPS whose mandate it is to address this, is the one I choose to explore as they are one of the organisations known to have been a primary beneficiary of significant sums in the past couple years. The current AG has identified such sums.

So while the CAPA (Crime and Problem Analysis Branch) is busy churning out numbers designed to fit neatly into sound-bytes at press conferences, the population sleeps uneasy, with one eye open, since every shadow is now a gunman.

And though the TTPs boast of how many guns they retrieved in the past year, the failure of arrests to accompany the discoveries—under fig patches and in abandoned houses—is also cause for concern. They failed to consider that for every firearm discovered in a fig patch, the owners simply went out and had such loses replaced, reflecting the ease with which firearms can be accessed.

Therefore, to come and tell us that there was a 54 % decrease in “serious indecency” while the detection rate for murder hovers around 9%, and has been the same for the past 20 years, transcends insulting.

Photo: Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams. (Copyright 103FM)
Photo: Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams.
(Copyright 103FM)

To brag about some reduction in stolen vehicles, but failing to tell us that of the 3,209 vehicles reported stolen between 2013 and 2016, only 211 were “detected” is equally insulting.

It has evidently eluded the collective heads of the TTPS, like the Minister of Finance, that when people lack confidence in an institution they withdraw their support.

For the TTPS, this becomes evident in the lack of reporting crimes. In the economy, it results in the lack of investments or purchases.

For those at the helm, 2017 cannot be business as usual. The TTPS is in dire need of a serious shakeup. I daresay that most of the senior heads needs to be sent packing, immediately, as they have overstayed their welcome and outlived their usefulness as “police officers.”

They are bad for the morale of the institution, often serving as poor role models. Their experiences are useless in today’s world of combatting crime and the new criminal, where they continue to believe that ‘rank’ supersedes all else.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago police on the move. (Courtesy Heritage Radio)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago police on the move.
(Courtesy Heritage Radio)

AboutRudy Chato Paul Sr

Rudy Chato Paul, Sr, is passionate about gardening, music and writing and boasts post-graduate certification in Anthropology, Criminology and Sociology. He also studied Theology, which is why he is actively seeking to make Trinidad a better place rather than waiting for divine intervention. 

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22 comments

  1. Armchair criminologist lol ah like it…..Better dan Stephen Williams and his bunch of incompetent men

  2. Impossible to build trust where there was never any to begin with.

  3. The TTPS, cannot and never will be able to seriously address the issue of CRIME at all levels in our emerging society with its attendant problems. It is small wonder that successive Police Administrations appear totally at sea in their futile attempts at tackling their particular responsibilities, as it relates to the overall picture of CRIME. The effectiveness of any efforts on the part of the POLICE SERVICE, will always be determined by the SYSTEM OF GOVERNANCE and the POLITICAL WILL of those holding high POLITICAL office. In essence the problem of CRIME is POLITICAL and as such only a POLITICAL solution will suffice. As a people, we have long been fed (and digested) the deliberately twisted view, that CRIME is a direct result of the actions, of a few misguided, deviant and antisocial people, who of course originate solely from a particular sector/class of the society. There are many reasons for crime in Trinidad and Tobago, with the PRIMARY ones being : ILLITERACY/SEMI-LITERACY, THE LACK OF OPPORTUNITY and POVERTY. All three of these ROOT causes are POLITICAL in nature and reflective of our inherited system of governance, which have been allowed to fester by successive POLITICAL ADMINISTRATIONS, who measure QUALITY and MEANINGFUL INPUT, by how much MONEY has been budgeted (for plunder), for each respective ministry. In fact the situation has gotten so bad, it is not difficult to discern how the causes identified, have DIRECTLY impacted upon the functioning of the TTPS itself. Ironically, while lack of opportunity is a contributory factor, ABUNDANT OPPORTUNITY has provided the platform for the prevalence of CORRUPTION and PLUNDER of the economy at an alarming rate, which is way beyond the reach and competence of the TTPS and detrimental to the advancement of our society as a whole. The untenable situation in which our society has been placed, directly and negatively affects the form and function of the TTPS, whether we care to accept it or not. There is and never will be any MAGICAL CRIME PLAN, unless and until the POLITICAL DEFICIENCIES are effectively dealt with.

  4. Reminds me of the old saying of my mother.”One day for police and one day for thief.” I am still waiting for the day for “police.”

  5. THE. Police. Service. Can’t. And. Won’t. Ever. Win. Public. Confidence. When. The. Public. Sees. The. Arrogant. Advantage. Frame. Cases. Extra. Judicial. Killings. And. General. Lawlessness. That. Masquerade s. As. A. Police. Force. The. Police. Is. More. Bandit. Than. The. Bandits. In. Most. Of. Our. Perceptions

  6. As far as I can remember in the TTPS as well as in most police departments in other jurisdictions, they play with statistics to present their operations in a favourable light. That’s not surprising to me but what I will comment on regarding statistics and reporting is that I am saddened and frustrated at times that we do not have an independent (non-police but maybe CSO or even National Security, or even UTT) crime report on the operations of the CJS published annually. One that presents a Crime Index of the crimes we as a people consider “major”. These crimes might include what we now legally call serious crimes but also what we call minor crimes. This is not a novel idea but has been practiced in other jurisdictions. I am also not surprised that the top CoP passes all his evaluations done by the Police Service Commission because he exceeds most of his Ministry approved objectives. The fundamental problem is not with the TTPS but with our governance approach to public safety. Its good to read Rudy though haven’t read him in a while. I see he’s still taking it to the TTPS.

    • Keron tell me more about these “Ministry approved objectives” that Stephen Williams is passing… I am very curious.

    • Lol… Things like increase gun seizures by n% or issue x DUI tickets or increase the administration of the breathalyser tests by n% … The issue is these outputs do not give us the outcome we desire, additionally its a very traditional way to evaluate police performance. Why the Ministry, in particular the Office of Law Enforcement and Policy, not allowed to provide more effective oversight to the TTPS is mind boggling to say the least. I’ve been to meetings where the TTPS reports on their performance re these objectives and the reality is they surpass most of them save the murder detection rate metric of course. Another question is why aren’t the objectives weighted? Surely increasing one’s stop and search exercises cannot be of equal weight with increasing the homicide detection rate.

    • Weighting their performances is definitely crucial.

  7. Exactly, and a senior member of that organization had the nerve to make that statement at a press conference.

  8. In rural areas they either have very little crime or the whole community knows who did it.

  9. The new horse-manure the TTPS is now spouting to impress/chain-up the population is there was an increase in the detection rate for serious crimes in rural areas.

  10. And they keep saying they are doing their best…for chrissakes, as if that makes everything all right. and the country should be satisfied..

  11. I fully agree with the odd statistics that the writer mentioned. I also firmly believe that the majority of the detected murders, small percentage though it is, is made of the the ones that I can sit at home and tell them whodunit. Those would be the spousal killings, the ‘mash toes’, the bar arguments and similar ones where one does not need to be a detective to solve.

    I am disturbed by the police association’s call for salary increases instead of dealing first with the rogue officers in their midst and also with ways of improving the productivity of the TTPS. Are they trying to get their officers out onto the streets? Are they ensuring that their officers deal with any crimes/misdemeanours that they see while on duty? Are they going to deal with the officers who use the marked cars and sirens to get through traffic to take the kids to school and the spouse to work? Instead they are threatening us with some kind of action and will probably be emboldened if the OWTU succeed with a Petrotrin strike.

    Do all of these things, get people to believe in you and therefore support you before trying for salary increases. But then again, the manpower audit may show what we see and that is that we really have too many police officers.

    • Keep in mind, if the police service enforced the law consistently, income could also be earned-traffic offenders etc.

    • The Association is not the Police Administration or the Police Service Commission. They represent members who pay dues for representation in salary negotiations and disciplinary matters. Dealing with rogue elements and the host of other issues you mentioned fall outside the remit of the Association. The entities mentioned in my first statement are responsible for dealing with those issues with officers. The Association represent members who run afoul of the regulations or directives.

  12. I interviewed brian Lewis after the Olympics and he tried to explain that better. But I never got around to publishing. I promise I will.

  13. The TTPS’ kindergarten version of reality is quite similar to the TTOC’s who believe relying on vaps would win T&T 10 Gold medals at the 2024 Olympic Games.

  14. Well said. The TTPS is a dinosaur operating in the 21st century. It starts at the top: Senior management is clueless as to how to wrestle spiraling crime. These are old school top brass who should be sent home. The problem is that I don’t think the TTPS has the Human Resources capable of scientifically tackling crime; there is a dire need to bring in foreign expertise from a major city like New York, once an 80s disaster, and now one of the safest big cities in the world.

    There is a need for a total overhaul of the TTPS: From minimum qualifications requirements for candidates, training methods, operational efficiency, and approach to crime solving. Criminals know they can be brazen because the TTPS is lagging behind the level of sophistication required to keep up with these criminals. The low murder detection rate emboldens these guys, as they know the likelihood of being apprehended and tried is slim to nothing. They don’t fear the police and it is there for all citizens to see.

    • You forgot we had Gibbs and Ewartski and they were undermined all round. No one is really serious about moving the TTPS into the 21st century, altho they are slowly implementing parts of the plan, piecemeal

    • It needs to be implemented with a greater degree of urgency. There was so much resistance to the 24-hour policing initiative. They think policing is a part time activity, while criminals execute their crimes round the clock. That said, if I were to bring in experts I’d go for the NYPD and the LAPD. The NYPD for its ability to transform troubled areas with its organization and
      the LAPD for its gang warfare experience. Just my humble opinion.