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Dear Editor: How sloppy policing contributes to violent domestic deaths

“This friend has a protection order against her brother, whose behaviour is becoming increasingly unpredictable. She told me that she had been to the police station to report yet another round of threats from him and informed—or reminded—the police of the protection order.

“The officer in charge of the station (probably a sergeant but I can’t say for sure) clearly told her the following or words to the effect: “Ma’am, we can’t do anything; he has to commit a breach of the protection order three times before we can take action.”

Photo: Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams (left) talks to the press while National Security Minister Edmund Dillon looks on.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian)

The following Letter to the Editor, which deals with a peceived relationship between domestic violence and sloppy policing was submitted to Wired868 by Mohan Ramcharan of Birmingham, England:

Violent deaths from spousal abuse are rampant in Trinidad and Tobago. Beatings, choppings, stabbings and shootings are often identified as the cause of death when the media report on domestic situations which turned fatal. On many occasions, we are also informed that the victim had reported the abuser to the police and, often, there is also a restraining order to ‘protect’ the victim from the abuser.

The real cause of death, however, is not the beatings, the choppings, the stabbings or the shootings; it’s human stupidity.

Hold on… I am NOT blaming the victim at all, or even the abuser, completely here. You see, for the most part, the stupidity that leads to the fatality is not on the part of the victim but on the part of the police.

For some reason, police officers see themselves as being more intelligent than the person next to them yet they are, it seems to me, inherently far more stupid than the ordinary man-in-the-street. Which of us does not have a story or two we can tell to bear out the veracity of that statement?

Photo: WPC Nyasha Joseph, a suspected victim of domestic violence, whose lifeless body was found in the Gulf of Paria on 15 March, 2017.

Here is one more for you. Yesterday, a friend from Trinidad called me where I am in England. This friend has a protection order against her brother, whose behaviour is becoming increasingly unpredictable. She told me that she had been to the police station to report yet another round of threats from him and informed—or reminded—the police of the protection order.

The officer in charge of the station (probably a sergeant but I can’t say for sure) clearly told her the following or words to the effect: “Ma’am, we can’t do anything; he has to commit a breach of the protection order three times before we can take action.”

Huh? Not surprisingly, my friend was incredulous and that was the reason for her call; she wanted to find out if the officer’s statement could possibly be true.

Astounded at the sheer stupidity of the statement, I was literally speechless for a couple of minutes. Do the police also watch people at traffic lights and make the first arrest only when someone has “broken” the red light three times? Do the police also only make the first arrest or issue the first ticket or prefer the first charge when someone is caught driving under the influence three times? Do the police also only make the first arrest or issue the first ticket or prefer the first charge when someone is caught speeding?

Photo: Acting Deputy Police Commissioner Deodat Dulalchan, nominated to take over at the helm of the TTPS.

Now we know why crime rates are so high, ent?

No one who reads the newspapers regularly can fail to know how poor the policing of violent domestic situations has long been. But why? Is it that they are simply ignorant and genuinely do not know the law? Is it that they have no sense? Is it they lack the required sensitivity to such issues? Or is it that they just don’t care?

Perhaps that explains why the Police Service remains without a fixed ‘leader’ in spite of 13 acting ‘extensions’ for the incumbent—and a few million dollars already spent on his replacement. Or perhaps it explains why the person currently recommended as that replacement is under a cloud.

As public servants, police officers are paid whether they work or not. So whether the officer goes out on patrol, investigates incidents, issues tickets, makes arrests or just sleeps in the police station, a salary goes into his/her bank account at the end of the month.

So the population pays twice—in taxes and in blood!

Photo: (From left to right) Abigail Jones-Chapman, Michael Scott and Olivia Chapman were murdered in Soho on 13 March 2018.

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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8 comments

  1. Time to get it right, whether the press gets on board or not. Class action wrongful death suit is calling. Citizens have powers too, right?

  2. Wow
    A protection order must by law be breeched three times before police can make an arrest.

  3. As I said ad nauseum, if there is a manual on how DV matters are to be investigated and the TTPS refuse to use it then these results are expected. What is even more disconcerting is that several media houses and NGOs are very much aware of this but don’t seem interested in pursuing it. This runs much deeper than the police.

    • The Domestic Violence Act covers the relevant law. No manual, as I said before, overrides the law.

      • The procedural manual provides the police guidance on how to build the case to give effect to the law. That’s why it is a manual and not a law. It’s about investigative procedures, collection of evidence, etc. Laws against breakings do not give the officer step by step guidance on how to investigate the case. There is no law that says dust for fingerprints, check cctv, interview neighbours etc. When there are documented procedures and said procedures are breached then there is objective justification for disciplinary action against the investigator. Until then there will just be the usual noise from the public and ad hoc disciplinary action by the police.

  4. Is that true. A person who has a court ordered ‘Order of Protection’ against them can have 2 free passes to abuse the person granted the order before the ‘protection’ is activated?