Demming: What criteria were used to measure Erla’s performance?

When Erla Harewood-Christopher assumed the role of acting commissioner of police in December 2022 following the vacation of her predecessor, McDonald Jacob, I was optimistic that things would change and our approach to crime would improve.

Her official appointment in February 2023 as our country’s first female commissioner of police created an even more positive anticipation, especially as she pledged to usher in meaningful changes to combat crime and ensure public safety.

Acting Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher.
Photo: TTPS

Yet at the moment, I am saddened and bereft of hope regarding our ability to reduce crime and, in particular, gun violence.

In February 2023, in the Joint Select Committee (JSC), she boldly stated that a reduction in the murder rate would be noticeable in the short term by June, and significantly improved in the long term by December.

Fast forward 14 months, and the reality is starkly different. The murder rate continued to soar, leaving us citizens gripped with fear and insecurity, reluctant to venture out of our homes.

A murder scene.

Despite this failure to deliver on her promises, Harewood-Christopher finds herself reappointed, raising questions about accountability and the criteria for leadership within the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS).

As the months passed after her reappointment, it became evident that the promised changes were not materializing. So, what went wrong?

What measurement were they using for her performance? The fact that she was breathing? That she didn’t fall asleep in meetings?

Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher (left) and Senior Superintendent Curt Simon appear before a JSC on National Security on 31 January 2024.
Photo: Office of the Parliament 2024

What criteria should have been used to measure her performance, and how do we tweak it so that she actually ends up effectively combating crime?

First, there needs to be a reassessment of the strategies employed by the TTPS. Rather than solely focusing on reactive measures, such as increasing patrols and arrests, there must be a shift towards proactive, community-oriented policing.

Building trust between law enforcement and communities is essential for gathering intelligence and preventing crime before it occurs.

Sergeant Marlon Glodon (centre) hugs two children within his community in Valencia.
(Copyright TTPS)

Additionally, investment in technology and modern forensic techniques can enhance the investigative capabilities of the police force, leading to higher conviction rates and deterrence.

Furthermore, giving every citizen the mental and financial tools to function in society will help with addressing the root causes of crime, such as poverty and unemployment, is paramount. Implementing social programs and initiatives aimed at empowering marginalized communities can disrupt the cycle of crime and create a safer society for all.

To reassure citizens of a safe future, transparency and communication are key. The TTPS must be forthcoming about their strategies and progress in tackling crime, fostering trust and collaboration with the public.

Police officers conduct a traffic exercise.
(via TTPS)

While the reappointment of Erla Harewood-Christopher raises concerns about accountability, it also presents an opportunity for reflection and reform within the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.

They should make clear to the public what benchmarks she must achieve at regular intervals, so we know if she’s actually justifying her salary: by studying various crime-generating situations to see how they can be defused so that strategies can be executed against crime; and by prioritizing community engagement, so we can work towards a safer and more secure future for all citizens.

Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher (second from right) poses with soldiers during a joint patrol.
Photo: TTPS

As of now, I am scared and without hope!

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One comment

  1. Well written and insightful article !!!

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