Police under fire: Raffique blazes local officers for unsolved murders

With crime, especially murder, being the number one issue on the national agenda for more than two decades, the police cannot escape being targeted as the most blameworthy for the barrels of blood in which the nation is swirling.

In the most recent sensational case, the Tobago double-murder, the police have come under fire from just about every quarter, including the media and individuals in Britain.

Photo: Former UK High Commissioner Arthur Snell (right) signs the visitors' book on a trip to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Courtesy News.Gov.tt)
Photo: Former UK High Commissioner Arthur Snell (right) signs the visitors’ book on a trip to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
(Courtesy News.Gov.tt)

Among them were former UK High Commissioner Arthur Snell and the sole survivors of a string of similar gruesome attacks on the island, Peter and Murium Green.

Snell, who was outspoken when he was posted in Port of Spain, wrote: “There has been a spate of murders and attempted murders of foreigners in Tobago, not one of which has been detected.

“In my discussions with TTPS (T&T Police Service), I was shocked at the casual, leisurely manner with which these cases were handled, allowing them to run into the quicksand and the unsolved pile. Sadly, I can’t see any reason why this case will be any different.”

Now, that may be unfair to the police to the extent that many factors impact the degree of criminality in any country, and police intervention—investigations, arrests, charges and solid evidence—is just one aspect of the process.

But what Snell said is the truth, however unpalatable it may be.

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

The police adopt a attitude in their investigations that borders on nonchalance, causing families of victims to lose confidence in them, convinced that nothing will happen by way of arrests or prosecutions, unless it drops in their laps.

The detection rate, or if I may rephrase that, the arrests rate—since most arrests involve no scientific detection work—is abysmally low for all crimes, but especially so for murder.

The few murderers who are arrested and charged are those who are easily identifiable by their connections with the victims or the trail of evidence they leave behind. And even in such cases, the police often bungle the cases so the killers walk free.

Gone are the days when Inspector Leslie Slater would conduct meticulous investigations, putting together pieces of a puzzle that the very smart Dr Dalip Singh left strewn from St Clair to Otaheite when he murdered his German wife Inge back in April 1954.

With no computers back then, no CCTV cameras, no DNA science, no phone recordings, Slater built an iron-clad case that sent Singh to the gallows in June 1955, a mere 14 months after the equally meticulously planned murder.

Slater’s dogged investigations—which I read about when Lester Orie and I researched and wrote the Dalip Singh story for the Mirror back in the late 1980s or early 1990s—were so impressive, they should form textbook guidelines for today’s homicide investigators.

Photo: British nationals Peter Greene (left) and his wife Murium were brutally attacked during vacation in Tobago. (Copyright UK Daily Mail)
Photo: British nationals Peter Greene (left) and his wife Murium were brutally attacked during vacation in Tobago.
(Copyright UK Daily Mail)

They leave me to wonder, and Arthur Snell to gripe, why, on a small island like Tobago with a population of fewer than 50,000, some person or persons could savagely hack to death—or leave for dead in one case—our expatriate couples, all retirees who fell in love with the island, and escape without a trace.

Green, who lives to tell the tale, and who refuses to be silenced by the ugly scars left on his face, said recently: “Your police force is grossly negligent and have no policing skills at all!”

Snell, who will have interacted with the police during his tenure here as High Commissioner, and who I suspect has trained in intelligence and security, was shocked by their casual approach to crime solution; by how easily they allowed cases to lapse into “the quicksand and the unsolved pile.”

Now, look at it from this perspective: the above-quoted persons are now safely ensconced in the UK, far from the killing fields of Tobago and Trinidad.

You and I live here. Our children, grandchildren, families, friends, neighbours have our navel strings buried in this country. Ninety-nine percent of us will not migrate to colder, and maybe safer, climes.

Photo: Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams (left) shakes hands with US Embassy Security Policy and Assistance Coordinator, Juanita Aguirre, at the handing over ceremony of 18 forensic photography kits to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service by the US. (Courtesy US Embassy)
Photo: Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams (left) shakes hands with US Embassy Security Policy and Assistance Coordinator, Juanita Aguirre, at the handing over ceremony of 18 forensic photography kits to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service by the US.
(Courtesy US Embassy)

For all its warts, in spite of the barrels of blood that soak into its soil every year, we love our country.

The Government votes $10 billion for national security, most of that for policing, we do not complain. They throw tens of millions behind armoured vehicles, hundreds of millions buying boats they say will secure our maritime. We accept their explanation without a murmur.

They top up the salaries of protective services’ personnel with $1,000 tax-free a month, something you and I will never get. We approve.

Well, for heaven’s sake—and I prefer an expletive, but my editor won’t allow it—man, shake a leg, nab a bandit, snare a killer, collar a high-class criminal, make us feel safer, do something to justify our money that is spent on you.

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About Raffique Shah

Raffique Shah
Raffique Shah is a columnist for over three decades, founder of the T&T International Marathon, co-founder of the ULF with Basdeo Panday and George Weekes, a former sugar cane farmers union leader and an ex-Siparia MP. He trained at the UK’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was arrested, court-martialled, sentenced and eventually freed on appeal after leading 300 troops in a mutiny at Teteron Barracks during the Black Power revolution of 1970.

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  2. Two laws,one for the rich another for the poor.Police are afraid to investigate the rich.No name calling of rich when crime occurs ‘innocent till proven guilty’.White collars have big time lawyers and QC’s.Police get into the service and conform to to the bad apples or get victimised.Dont ask dont tell attitude.Just like families and neighbours who wont report a crime done by their own the culture of low detection and solving will go on.We know but wont say these things.

  3. Low detection rate? Pretty much NO detection rate….

  4. As Shah states the key to our crime problem is not severe punishments but higher detection rates. The certainty of being caught is the best deterrent and once caught swift punishment. The judicial system is a joke, justice is very much delayed in this country, waiting 10 years plus to go to trial is ridiculous. We lack an effective criminal justice system. Graduates need to see the police as a career, and pay and conditions would have to reflect that. Pay peanuts get monkeys! The public also has a role to play in assisting policing. Sadly there is also a high level of police corruption and lack of public confidence.

    • But William, what are the factors contributing to our abysmal detection rate?

    • 🙂 Dem that know won’t tell! People are reluctant to come forwad to give evidence (understandably so); police response, I had a break-in some years ago, neighbours called the police, care to guess how long it took them to show up? It also helps if you are smarter and less corrupt than the criminals you’re trying to catch. I could go on but I’ll stop there. Let me say that I’m not trying to belittle the police, they put their lives on the line everyday but they’re not fit for purpose.

    • We would need to be prepared to pay them a hell of a lot more. And to act much more responsibly,support the police! .

  5. ..this murder detection rate…less than 10%??..

  6. The white collar crime go hand in hand with the other crimes

  7. I agree Lilly. Trying to eradicate blue collar crime while leaving white collar crime alone is like to try to mop the floor with the tap running.

  8. We might even get the FCB Report to get the ball rolling!

  9. It’s time to replace the entire population ……. we need a population transfusion!

  10. It is time to replace Stephen williams.

  11. Again, what about the cases that the police are not accounting for RIGHT NOW?? I’m not saying solving murders are not important, but we as kind if letting Williams off the hook by not forcing him to account for ongoing stuff!! What happened to the ‘weed’, Emailgate, prisongate, witness tampering??? If the police are not willing to account for these things how can we expect them to solve murders??? Let’s keep the pressure on the stuff that they currently have!!

  12. when we can solve ( jail ) white collar and blue collar crime/criminals, only then will the other crimes be solved… the fish rots from the head. get rid of white / blue collar crime / corruption, and we good to go.

  13. Also we just had an administration in office that near completely dismantled the nation’s national security apparatus and a GREAT MANY people agreed with the policy based entirely of political partisanship.

    As ever the only thing wrong with Trinidad is that it’s peopled by Trinidadians!

  14. I thought Gibbes knew what he was doing but he was prevented by Ramesar and his group. All they wanted was to maintain the status quo which was and currently is, detrimental to the TTPS moving forward as a modern, progressive entity. Pity! I see some things being introduced under different names which brings some hope to the situation. If we can only get a detection rate, we might be in good shape!

  15. I really don’t know, but perhaps there exists within the TTPS a culture where there is resistance to change. I can only imagine that police officers deep down inside want to be effective, but becoming effective would naturally involve changing an environment that is entrenched and officers and brass are too comfortable with.

    I mean we’re talking about as simple an issue as improving response times, yet when Gibbs had suggested outfitting squad cars with GPS trackers there was adamant opposition to the idea ….. what rational reason could their possibly have been to that other than fear of accountability?

    The TTPS in my view suffers from nothing that society as a whole does not ….. we’re lawless, we feel every law and rule ought to be obeyed except those we personally don’t care for, we want a more perfect state without elevating our standards.

    The fact is whatever changes necessary for the improvement of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago will be strongly opposed by someone whether it be is wasteful spending, subsidized freeness, modernization of transportation, traffic regulations or law enforcement.

    It requires nothing less of acts of God for the implementation of wise policies because that’s just how we roll!

  16. …Yes. The police acted quickly on the photo and video. Pity they don’t do the same when politicians involved. As i said. Politics..

  17. gimme a break ransome…that only happen because it was a case of how it go look

  18. Change in T&T policing efficacy is screaming to be let out of the bag and many have been sitting on their hands, doing nothing but collecting salaries. Poor leadership, sub-standard performance management, and weak community-police relationship have anchored TTPS in a cesspool of futility. However, I was shocked with amazement when they captured those 3 suspects for the recent murders in Tobago. Hope this is the start of change.

  19. ..Poor national work ethic. Level of education. Doh care attitude. Lack of institutional priorities. Politics. Public fear. Inadequate resources. Do the math..

  20. Why do we keep hiring lowly educated persons as police officers

    Is it a cepep exercise?

  21. ..Read it…Raffique shooting from the hip.. If local police cannot solve murders, why do we not seek expertise from abroad…??

  22. Uncle Raf is right something so simple as improving the response rate would help in apprehending criminals in the act, while their investigative techniques, if any, are lacking

  23. Ladies, Gentlemen et al.,
    We should be quite amazed if the TTPS is able to apprehend any criminal in Trinidad and Tobago given the quality of the thinking of the average police officer. To commit a crime takes much less thinking ability probably than to solve it with judicial evidence.
    Do we really think that the type of individual who is motivated to seek recruitment to our Police Service ( I wonder if they even think of themselves as a service) is up to the task of gathering facts and making deductions that may lead to a sound legal case or even a solution to a crime?
    Isn’t the ” evidence ” clear that because we have such poor raw material and seniority rules in promotion that the leadership of the TTPS is, to be charitable, totally out of its depth?
    We have heard for the last three years that the Commissioner is acting as if that is an impediment to him doing his job. In any other job he as the head of an organization with such an abysmal record would have been fired. Of course, the problem is that even if he is fired and we still use seniority as the decision rule to appoint a new one from within the ranks the problem of poor quality will still be with us.
    What may be clearly needed is some new thinking and this may have to come from outside of our shores.
    And then we still have to change the admission criteria as clearly the level of thinking required is not being found with our current admission criteria.
    This will take time, but it does not have to take the length of time that people may think. In a crisis, we have to take measures to speed up these matters and new talent from outside may probably have to be brought in immediately to stop the immediate crisis while the longer term issues are tackled.
    This requires political will.
    Will we get that from our current Government and the country’s loyal Opposition?
    Many thanks.

  24. Raf, Do you think policing can get better when there is an acting CoP of dubious quality at the helm? Have you ever heard the CoP say anything that is the equivalent of your last paragraph? In fact, have you ever heard him say anything that suggests that he is unhappy with the status quo as far as the issues you raise herein are concerned?
    Here’s hoping Rowley and Dillon follow through on their campaign promises to do something about a “ten-days” CoP.

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