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Dear Editor: Citizens deserve “Imbert Treatment” too; time to address class and race bias in T&T

“There is a large body of sociological and psychological evidence that explains that peoples’ experiences with law enforcement personnel are affected by factors such as race, colour, class and status.

“Is it that Minister Colm Imbert and TTPS public relations personnel want us to believe that this does not happen in Trinidad and Tobago?”

The following Letter to the Editor, which suggests that Adrian Imbert, the son of Finance Minister Colm Imbert, might have benefited from bias—whether conscious or not—by the local police, was submitted to Wired868 by Dr Tye Salandy, who is a sociologist and independent journalist at www.Trinicenter.com.

Photo: Adrian Imbert is the son of Finance Minister Colm Imbert.

The recent incident of the Minister of Finance Colm Imbert’s son being robbed provided one more example of something that most Trinbagonians know deeply. That is, the law firstly and most responsively serves the elite members of the society.

After being robbed on Friday, the phone was recovered on Monday in the Beetham area. Ordinary citizens were understandably outraged because the speedy police action was much different to what they may be accustomed to in similar cases.

After this apparent selective law enforcement action caused public anger, T&T Police Service (TTPS) head of corporate communications Ellen Lewis denied that the TTPS paid special attention to recovering Adrian Imbert’s mobile phone. She said, “We treat impartially and objectively with reports that come in relative to crimes that were committed.”

In another newspaper report, public information officer ASP Michael Jackman also denied that special treatment happened in this instance.

He said “Once a report is made to a police officer, as is standard procedure and it involves cell phones and other electronic devices, the investigator would make a request, if necessary, to the various sections and agencies within the TTPS to assist in locating such devices. Exercises would be conducted to secure those devices once a location has been given.”

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

Yet ordinary citizens have many experiences of police inaction after making reports, even after furnishing police with the location of stolen items. Relatives of mine were victims of a home invasion and robbery earlier this year. After giving the police the location of some of the stolen items, the investigating officer kept giving a run-around. Notably, no attempt was made to track the stolen cell phones.

The responses of the TTPS communication personnel are a clear case of public relations and “protecting the image of the police service” taking precedence over truth and reality. I would have far more respect for the TTPS if they simply admitted that it was possible that the Minister’s son did receive special attention, or that ordinary members of the public sometimes do not get that level of responsiveness. That way, we could reach further in the public dialogue as to the issues that have to be addressed.

Even stranger was the response by Finance Minister Colm Imbert to the public uproar surrounding the apparently selective high-performance response by the police. Imbert denied that he used his influence as a minister or that his son received any special treatment.

In this response Minister Imbert not only demonstrated amazing ignorance about what constitutes ‘special treatment’, but also provided details that support the widespread public perception that the case was not treated in an ordinary way.

As reported in a newspaper story, Imbert responding to a question of whether he used his influence said: “Absolutely not. He (Adrian) called 999 and the police subsequently called me simply to get the location of the truck.”

Photo: Finance Minister Colm Imbert.

Why did the police call Colm Imbert and not his son, if it is was the son who made the report? Is it that an ordinary police investigator just happened to have Colm’s phone number?

What is clear here, is that the police knew that the person robbed was Colm Imbert’s son. Is it that Colm Imbert and the TTPS public relations people were aware of all the psychological responses of the police officers who were dealing with the case and could say with certainty that the police were not influenced by the fact that they were dealing with a wealthy, “white” and politically-connected person?

All citizens are not treated equally by the law or before the law; that may be an ideal, but it is not the present reality. The sooner the TTPS and politicians acknowledge this, the sooner policies and programmes could be implemented to address the root causes of why this is so.

There is a large body of sociological and psychological evidence that explains that peoples’ experiences with law enforcement personnel are affected by factors such as race, colour, class and status. Is it that Minister Colm Imbert and TTPS public relations personnel want us to believe that this does not happen in Trinidad and Tobago?

No amount of political or public relations spin doctoring will convince citizens of what they know from their own experiences. The response by the police to Imbert’s robbery was not the type of response that most citizens are accustomed to.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Marisa Dick (centre) was accompanied by five police officers at the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) press conference on 20 April 2016 at the Chamber of Commerce in Westmoorings.
(Courtesy Wired868)

Colm and the public relations machinery of the TTPS want us to believe that a “white”, wealthy, politically-connected person is treated the same way as ordinary people. This shows ignorance of the realities of “white” privilege and class biases that are so prevalent in this country. While this will not be so in every single case, this is the general tendency.

I am glad that Imbert’s son recovered his phone and was unharmed in the incident. I only wish that the thousands of ordinary black and brown persons get the Imbert treatment in similar circumstances.

This is not about bashing police officers. These issues have to be addressed in every single sector of our society. The police service is often expected to address problems that go far beyond what is possible through policing. Despite this, high ranking officials of the TTPS have to take responsibility and face the reality of what happens on their watch.

Many people are unaware that race, class and status biases are at the foundation of the origins of the local police service, which evolved from militias that upheld slave plantations.

The Trinidad and Tobago Police Force was originally created to defend the interests of wealthy persons and to enforce laws created to control the black and brown populations. So the very origins of the local police service was about serving firstly the economic, social and political wellbeing of the elite.

Photo: US television personality Anthony Bourdain (centre) has dinner with representatives from Trinidad and Tobago’s Syrian/Lebanese community.

There is not enough awareness and addressing of this history, and thus aspects of this filter into the present policing and justice system. Police officers have a dangerous and challenging job that is  exacerbated by this unaddressed history. More on this soon.

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76 comments

  1. This is common practice in all government agency .it is not right

  2. What about a minister son with a cutlass attack. Special treatment . ?

  3. the fact is unless u have had an experience with the police service as a common man, you will understand what the fuss is… are ppl understanding the effects of all these murders? fatherless children, single mothers leaving her children all over trying to make ends meet?(preditors), a generation gap of males in the future..

  4. Every dog has his day that what my parents thought me

  5. This non issue is sad. Finding a stolen phone is not some great accomplishment. Getting the bandits is the bigger focus and getting a conviction…Let us see this happen. The entire system is down…Ask Dana…oh wait you can’t.

  6. The TTPS only serve the 1% and themselves. Why do you think so many of us are victims of crime every year?

  7. What about the place where some of us work? For example when companies refuse to pay skilled workers their overtime, and violation of the OSH act. The TTPS or the relevant authorities must be able to assist and help in solving these problems we encounter. What about the email issues which the TTPS are investigating ? Law abiding citizens do not feel safe.

  8. Only talk n no action. How long this B.S. going on..Government go Government come it’s the same shit..all I see is
    alot of keyboard gangsters..

  9. Lasana every time I see these topics raised it looks like a shepard trying to herd cats.
    I give you props for perseverance though! Hahahaha

  10. I want an Adrian Imbert model phone too…with a Shamfa data plan..

  11. Agreed with your putting together this story of supremacy Dr. Tye Salandy. You must not stop of exposing our ills as you see fit. Thanks for posting.

  12. I agree because weed marijuana ganja herbs how ever u call it was found at the home of a sitting PM and all of a sudden it was a plant like substance that went for testing God alone knows where and up to now NOTHING has come out of it. At least Adrian phone was legal

    • What does that have to do it with whether the police are doing right by citizens or not?
      Doesn’t that actually prove what the author is saying that Police can be compromised by the ruling party?

    • Lets forget d politics and study the people nah jeezzzz.. TTPS is failing us daily for me to make a report the other day I had to call a friend whi is an Inspector cause PTown Police didn’t want to take my report, its sickening going to ANY police station

    • Lasana Liburd yes I said I agree I wasn’t being sarcastic I just highlighted a forgotten case for those who have amnesia and think it’s a PNM thing

    • Steups don’t be petty jackass….. it was 10 piece (1gram)

    • Wish Law officers released people when the quantity of marijuana was that small. But they don’t do they?
      Here’s another question: were they growing marijuana at the residence of the last prime minister? Or did they have to buy it from somewhere?
      If it was the latter scenario, should the owner of the five piece cooperate with Police to reveal the seller?
      Personally, I think marijuana should be legalized. But my only point is that there should be consistency in applying the law. One law for all.

    • Base I get you now. And yes. I don’t understand why PNM supporters are acting like the police service is an extension of the party that must be protected at all costs.
      Both parties need to think more about the country in my opinion.

    • Darren Da Silva that’s a major problem of ours in sweet t&t why do we have to try to belittle or degrade someone with a different perspective to ours smh I’ll take it as a compliment

  13. We seriously need to change our national anthem

  14. Cell phones are probably only second to cash as items stolen in robberies. Over 70% of robberies are committed using firearms. If half the robberies were given the attention that this case got, think what the robbery detection rate would be and the firearm recovery rate. The existing detection rate alone contradicts the press briefing. If only reporters asked those types of questions to the TTPS.

  15. I cannot see what all the fuss is about when the police recovered Mr. Imbert ‘ s son ‘s phone so quick because he is a Government minister. Every country in the world and in every business if someone in authority needs a favor or gets into trouble the security personnel or anyone in higher authority always give quick service or work fast to solve whatever the issue is. So what is new! All who are talking about it would want the same favour if they were in that position.

    • How about regular citizens wanting and needing the police to do their jobs, without it being a favor? Are you saying you accept that the rest of us don’t matter? And we need to accept that? There are countries in this world where regular people are served by the police. Why can’t we be one of those countries?

    • If we can accept this how about how police respond to regular citizens breaking the law vs ministers breaking the law…… I will not condone BS!!!! Show data of how many cellphones were recovered for the year

      They need to miss d country with that BS

    • Demetrius Fraser I am not saying that regular people are not important or do not matter. All people matter but it is a normal thing for those in authority to be treated better in all countries. Do you expect the police to treat the President the same way as they treat the regular people?

    • Kathleen Luke i hope when your time come you can deal with it.

    • Keith Balwant I will be able to deal with it because I have been there and done that.

    • Kathleen Luke, while I understand your point, we have to make a fuss. U say u cannot see what the fuss is about. We cannot continue to let them ride over us without a murmur. Yes, privilege has its perks. But this is so ludicrous, and the defense by the police vulgar. People aren’t stupid. And these acts contribute to the feelings of rage and helplessness that hold our country in a chokehold this last decade or so. Even longer, if we really probe. We gotta call them out on their BS.

    • What’s the fuss ent, that’s where our problem began too many ELDERS thinking like that, but tend to fuss when it hits home. #Trinidadisnotarealplace

    • If it walks like PNM, talks rubbish like a PNM, then guess what it is…..always defending the shit…smh

    • No Paddna! Yuh Missing De Point..De Point is De Swiftness and Aggressive in Which The Action was Taken..the Prompt Response in Order To Get It…Wat De People are Saying is..This Same Approach Should Be Used To Catch Criminals, Bandits and Murderers..This is De Point..It Shows That We De Ability to Solve Crime..but For Some reason or De Other They Not Doing It.

    • true nothing changes when u have position in this country

    • In any country Ms Lelar, who allyuh tryin tuh fool

    • Sweetheart….is ah phone we talking about….the new Adrian Imbert model….dat can’t be replaced cause the manufacturers only made one….

    • Is his life worth more than yours why should he get special treatment minister or not all should be treated fairly or equal

    • Kathleen Luke do you know the PM of India has banned the use of sirens to all VIPs? Including himself.
      These people who think they are special are our employees. They have selfelevated because they think they are special and more important than the rest of us. Trust me, they are not.
      They should have the same treatment as the rest of us, including being arrested for breaking the law and they certainly do.

    • Are you really endorsing nepotism? Really? A friend of mine has been missing one week now with no information of his whereabouts. I would like you to console his mother by telling her if she had ministerial ties that her child would have been found already. No elite units dispatched to locate her son, just empty promises and false hope. Is this what you support? Pat yourself on your back. You are one of those responsible for the shit this nation facing today.

    • Shaun Sohun Worse !!! Apparently Adrians phone is worth more than the average citizens life …. not only that but we should just deal with it because his father is a minister with power to use as he wishes while the rest if us suffer … My humble apologies for ranting on … But most of all .my prayers go out to you … I hope your friend is found and returned safely …. It really hurts me to see people accept garbage … and it makes me angry when I’m told that it is not only ok … but I should just accept it too …

    • Shaun Sohun you don’t understand what i am saying. I am saying there should be no special treatment for those that benefit from it.
      Every citizen needs that “special” treatment, including your friend.
      The population has brought this on themselves, to a certain extent. All we do is complain on FB, people need to protest more but we are basically a “take-it- in-the-rear-(with no lube) society”.

    • Ronnie Jackson my comment was directed towards the original poster, not the replies. I agree. Its time to stop treating elected officials like ordained monarchs and start demanding our rights and representation

  16. The 1% and rich people in the country is a sizeable population for the police to serve with priority. The rest is ketch arse. Unfortunately the police continues to self inflict their biases when they do things like this and shove it down the public that that’s normal service!!

  17. This is the reality , Police don’t follow-up on reports made by ordinary citizens . Societies are made by the very said people who complained about discriminatory practices , e.g. if I refuse to pursue a report I made to the police , my matter becomes just a report and may never be investigated by the officer . Another person received immediate response and attention without much efforts , we must not consciously or unconsciously agreed to be discriminated by our own inconsistencies . I strongly suggest reading George Orwell classic Animal Farm .

  18. I remember when I was in University, my laptop was stolen from my bedroom window. Made a report. This was in 2008. Nothing!

  19. I reported a stolen animal about 3 to 4 months ago, todate the police have not come the crime scene as yet as a matter of fact I was not surprised as the Female officer who interviewed me was more concerned with her long eye lashes and the location of the crime( in bushy area or not because they not going in any bush) than actually doing her duty. Am 1000% sure if this crime was reported by a “white” person then more information and action would have been taken.

  20. Remember people like him are just plain ignorant

  21. These people does not know what it is to be poor, they do not know what it is to sacrifice, they have money weather they thief and get it , inherited it , work for it or beg for it , these people doesn’t know what it is to catch you ass, just like how you would have people faking sickness to get other people pitty and that is a form of a disorder ? People like Imbert are sick in their own way

  22. If ever l have to call the Police…”I will request an Imbert”.

  23. No DUIs around Ariapita Ave.and in the west?<,All those young millennials clubbing?No one is over the limit at any time?

  24. I’m in total agreement with Dr. Salandy. One of the areas that reeks of this is vehicular accident cases. Over a period of years from the last century to present day, there were a few reported cases in which I was a victim of accidental damage done to my car. Never have any of these cases been called and after many calls and running around you just get tired and have to spend much money to repair your own vehicle. Vehicle Insurance is one of the biggest rip-off and a brutally unjust service that a poor man who owns a vehicle must comply with. And not any government ever give a thought to this.

  25. Look I have made reports to the police for theft and they can’t even reach my house. So to say they did not treat this event differently just does not run true. My wife’s car was rear-ended and they certainly can’t find the car or driver who just drove off. I have to say a car is far bigger than a phone. But this is months later and they can find a phone in hours. The TTPS can never expect me to believe that this event wasn’t give special treatment.

    • They can’t find a car but they want to send tickets in the mail based on pictures ? They claimed to have good CCTV footage yet the airport robbery had none? TSTT could trace his phone yet couldn’t give information to a young lady trying to fund her missing mother , even when escorted by police? They found CCTV footage from wherever yet couldn’t force IAM and company to give them footage of a young lady murdered in their store? Jokers under an acting COP who seem to think he’s an actor on Tv

  26. Time will tell and God don’t sleep let them continue playing Russian roulette with people lives

  27. Raise gas once n Haiti an is riot I’m bus raise three time an not a dog barks

    • That’s why Haiti is in the mess it is in. People have to understand that you cannot spend what you don’t have and when you spend, you must have means to raise the revenue for what you spent. Apparently, many of us only studying what we may have to give and not the benefits in the long term. If Barbados had taken heard, the nation wouldn’t be in the IMF pockets today. Wilfred, please don’t get caught up with politics and not reality. Read the latest IMF report on TNT

    • Albert I won’t argue with the crux of your message. But of course that is NOT why Haiti is in a mess.
      When it comes to financial wastage and mismanagement, I think successive governments are far more wasteful than the populace.
      All the same, your point is fair. Except for the Haiti reference.

    • You! Talkin that Shit!! Lasana??? Na!!

  28. “Imber Treatment”. This is what this country has come too. Hmmm.

  29. So many of us have grown up with these discrepancies that they become part of normal living. It is good to be reminded that they exist and are not acceptable, and that there is need for change.