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Dear Editor: Is Griffith’s crime-fighting medicine good for us in the long term?

“I celebrate the success of the intelligence that would have led to this find [of weapons and drugs]… But there is something else that I feel a deep concern about.

“I look with discomfort at that brotherhood of testosterone and violence that our Commissioner seems a little too happy to promote. The one that he seems to revel in. I wonder where it might lead…”

The following Letter to the Editor on the perceived tone struck by Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith in his crime fighting duties was submitted to Wired868 by JJ Brown:

Photo: Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith (centre) poses with masked officers after a drugs and weapons bust in central Trinidad.
(Courtesy TTPS)

I sit here watching with alarm two photos. One of them features our intrepid Commissioner of Police posing with his balaclava-clad team, weapons in hand, shoulder to shoulder, looking as menacing as  persons featured on a poster for the  latest action movie.

The photo speaks to a brotherhood of testosterone and violence. The other photo features startling high powered weapons and packages of what have been described as illegal drugs. The explanation appears to be that the TTPS found the weapons and drugs in one of their Exercises.

I wonder as I look at the two photos at the competing reactions within me. I think with horror of the intentions of the persons who would use or sell this cache of weapons and these drugs. I think of the death and mayhem that these instruments could have caused.

I think of the existing means that would have allowed them to enter our borders and I shudder at the thought of how many more rooms and houses in our country are home—even now—to similar “ treasures” and how many will be.

I am relieved that this set has been found and taken off of our streets. I celebrate  the success of the intelligence that would have led to this find. I hope it sends the message that the “good guys” are winning the war on crime. I would be happy to see such a story three or four times a week, until this destructive well runs dry.

Photo: A young man kisses a high powered weapon.

The only thing that would compete with these feelings of satisfaction would be the swift prosecution and conviction of the perpetrators followed by the sound of the jail cell door slamming shut behind them!

But there is something else that I feel a deep concern about. I look with discomfort at that brotherhood of testosterone and violence that our Commissioner seems a little too happy to promote. The one that he seems to revel in.

I wonder where it might lead. What are the doors that we have opened? Can they be closed when needed?

In circumstances in which violence, both verbal and physical, seem to consume us, does its shameless promotion—even by our Police Officers—do us more harm than good?

How are we balancing the messages? How are we ensuring that, as an organisation, the TTPS examines all avenues available to it to fight crime—in the immediate as well as the long term?

Or that the actual transformation of the organisation takes place and the TTPS takes up a role in the country that helps us to find our way out of this morass of drugs and violence—a role that encourages all of us, old and young to engage with each other and solve problems without doing physical harm; and encourages alternatives to the use of illegal drugs and sets an example of integrity and accountability?

Photo: Police Commissioner Gary Griffith (right) and National Security Minister Stuart Young.
(Copyright Ministry of National Security)

And yes I understand that, as our chatty CoP says, he can’t fight crime with pillows. Yes, I know that I can’t have it both ways: I can’t seek safety and security in an environment of violent crime while criticising the use of violence by our crimefighters, or even the appearance of their level of comfort with violence.

Yes, if tonight, my family is attacked in a home invasion, I would want heavily armed police—properly trained, please!—to rush to our rescue. And yes, I understand that the TTPS are crimefighters not social workers. But with all of that, my discomfort is real.

How much is too much?

At the end of the day, I hesitate to try to answer that question. I just hope that there is balance. I hope that this new leadership of our Police Service understands the need for that balance and is an example of that balance between his executive and the boots on the ground.

I hope in addition to posing for photos with guns and masks—much as it may appeal to the male-psyche—that there is also equal attention to good policing that respects the rights of persons, encourages an ethos of customer service and earns, promotes and maintains public trust and confidence. And, yes, allows officers to be social workers when necessary.

Without that I would be afraid that we end up at risk of dying from the medicine that the doctor gave us to soothe the fever.

Photo: Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith (left) makes a point to TV6 Morning Show host Fazeer Mohammed.

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Letters to the Editor
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