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Dear Editor: Anti-Gang Bill no panacea for crime; change of culture of Police Service needed

“The Anti-Gang Bill, sunset clause or not, suffers from the same ills as every other piece of legislation in Trinidad and Tobago: to be effective, it must be enforced! For enforcement to take place, the Police Service needs to do a better job, a much, much better job. To ascertain proof beyond reasonable doubt, one requires evidence, which the Police Service seems to be clueless about.”

The following Letter to the Editor, which suggests reasons why the recently passed Anti-Gang Bill is unlikely to be effective in reducing crime, was submitted to Wired868 by Mohan Ramcharan of Birmingham, England:

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

Both the government and the Opposition (when they were the government) have been touting the Anti-Gang Bill as a panacea for the horrendous crime situation in Trinidad and Tobago. Aside from it being a badly drafted piece of legislation, there is no evidence whatsoever that the Anti-Gang legislation did work in the past; therefore, there is little doubt that it will ever work in the future.

As an example, the State is now required to pay compensation to several persons who were detained under the previous Anti-Gang Act, as can be seen using the following link to a Guardian newspaper article. (http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2018-03-01/state-settles-soe-lawsuits).

“During the SoE, which lasted from September to December 2011, hundreds of suspected gang leaders and members were rounded up by police and charged under the controversial Anti-Gang Act. All were eventually freed by the DPP’s Office because there was no evidence submitted by the police to support their detention.”

The Anti-Gang Bill, sunset clause or not, suffers from the same ills as every other piece of legislation in Trinidad and Tobago: to be effective, it must be enforced! For enforcement to take place, the Police Service needs to do a better job, a much, much better job. To ascertain proof beyond reasonable doubt, one requires evidence, which the Police Service seems to be clueless about.

From all appearances, the entire Police Service (from commissioner to constable) is of the belief that arresting people is sufficient proof that the job is done correctly.

Photo: Senior members of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service during an address by then National Security Minister John Sandy in 2010.
(Courtesy News.Gov.TT)

I have often said that the Police Service suffers collectively from an intellectual—and best practice—approach to fighting crime. There may be individual officers at all levels who will have the occasional shining moments but, for the most part, the organisation is bereft of motivation and capability. Sadly, this reflects the culture built up over decades within the organisation and without. Not only is it virtually impossible to stamp out, it will continue to grab new recruits in its tentacles and corrupt them in the same manner—after all, their teachers have already been “institutionalised” by that particular culture.

Put another way, it is impossible to teach old dogs new tricks.

I have little hope that crime, currently rising to intolerable levels, will actually be reined in over the next 20 years. This is partly because the local police are incapable, partly because they refuse to learn modern and effective policing methods, partly because they do not want external and qualified leaders, partly because those on a managerial level are probably even more ineffective than appears to be the case—one very senior police officer even boasted about how high he has risen through the ranks with only a school leaving certificate!

With that attitude, one can only despair. There is a vast difference between rising up the ranks on merit and qualifications and rising through the ranks as a result of mediocrity and seniority.

All in all, citizens ought to be prepared for what is to come. I have said it before and I will say it again—plainly and boldly—that it is only when senior politicians and their relatives are affected by violent crime that their anger and disgust will turn towards effective legislation and finding the political willpower to manage the Police Service better.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (right) and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar SC.
(Copyright Stabroek News)

About Mohan Ramcharan

Mohan Ramcharan is a law student and a student of human nature and culture, who prefers cool logic to emotional ranting. A Trinidadian living in England, he observes the world through two lenses—and strives to share both views in his writing.

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15 comments

  1. The general argument made holds true for all our institutions and the private sector. This is why a meteor full of vibranium crashing into a country will not make it rich or advanced. Consider oil and gas in Nigeria and TnT, or all of the precious metal deposits spread across the African continent.

    The average person in a population must have a disciplined mindset that is appreciative of the need for rules and regulations and consequences for non-adherence. This is what leads to an educated population which in terms of numbers is reflected in test scores (eg PISA), low crime rates, high productivity in public and private sectors, favourable perception of corruption indices, low infant and maternal mortality rates, high standards of health care, clean environment, access to basic utilities for all, innovation, etc etc.

    This is what separates Singapore from the other ex colonies. It is why Estonia which became independent of Russia in the 1990’s is superior to Russia and the Caribbean (and others) in living standards.

    Local example: Since at least 2008 there has been a domestic violence manual with comprehensive procedures about the conduct of DV investigations and prosecution. Most of the public figures and NGO’s that are “outraged” by the DV situation in TnT are aware of it but no one speaks of it. The media is also aware of this manual and keeps the population in the dark. Now groups want to come together the develop something that is already in existence SMH.

  2. And they wonder why want weapons

  3. Make a report in the station and they treat you like a criminal

  4. I does feel de same way when dey talk about bringing back hanging. Hang who? Who getting ketch? I agree dat legislation is needed, but in and of itself it is useless unless accompanied by a dramatic improvement in our police’s crime fighting abilities.

    • Not to mention the fact that the anti-gang legislation was there before and there is no evidence whatsoever to say it was a success. It is actually the opposite.
      Look at the people held around carnival and then released. You think allowing them to hold people longer would help? I say that legislation is no substitute for good Police work.

    • There are several prisoners who are convicted of murder and the state is either unwilling or unable to carry out the death penalty. How is that the police fault?

    • Justin when we speak of detection rate, it doesn’t mention convictions. So the police service doesn’t have a good rate of apprehending criminals.
      It is the State’s job to prosecute once the police did their job in following right procedure in arrest and charge. Sure.

    • I does ask, ” Wey hanging gorn?” and find out that the sheep can’t answer.

  5. Being proactive rather than reactive