Home / View Point / Letters to the Editor / Dear Editor: Has T&T reverted from Police Service to Police Force? And at what price our liberty?

Dear Editor: Has T&T reverted from Police Service to Police Force? And at what price our liberty?

“When police are militarised, they are more likely to be attacked (Carriere, 2016). The militarisation of police does not reduce crime. Elite teams neither reduce crime nor enhance public safety and become used routinely in low-income communities.

“There is no evidence that this practice enhances officer safety nor lowers crime (Mummolo, 2018).”

The following Letter to the Editor on the perceived change of tone within the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) under new Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith, was submitted to Wired868 by Noble Phillip of Blue Range:

Photo: Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith (left) and his wife Nicole Dyer-Griffith (centre) during the 2018 Independence Day parade in Port of Spain.
(Copyright Ministry of National Security)

Two years from today we will still be able to buy our favourite brand of fried chicken. Authoritarian states allow this.

Wendell Phillips’ words, “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to the few… the hand entrusted with power becomes, either from human depravity or esprit de corps, the necessary enemy of the people” are salutary. We are witnessing intimidation on a national scale to control us all—from The UWI students to the media—not just the criminals.

Our high crime rate and the criminal justice system’s inability to control crime have created legitimacy crises for our governments. Our police were rated among the best in the colonial Commonwealth, but our politicians subverted this by their corruption and nepotism.

Former Police Commissioner Eustace Bernard identified the power of the Welfare Association in getting the 1972 Cabinet approval for a change in working hours without his knowledge or proper preparation as the start of the breakdown.

Politics have informed the appointment and (dis)appointment of all Commissioners. Our current Government has concluded that the new Commissioner will generate a measurable and positive impact in the reduction of the ‘fear’ of crime. Appearances therefore matter.

Photo: A thug shows off his weapon in Trinidad.

The gentleman and the Welfare Association advocate for a militarised police service. Anthropologist Peter Kraska says “militarization is the embrace and implementation of an ideology that stresses the use of force as a good way to solve problems.”

The language changes, more weapons purchased, and more willingness to swat all in sight. Every problem will look as a nail to be hammered. Swagger and intrusion in everyday life mark the return of the Police Force.

Criminal monsters are real. The issue is the way we intend to train the officers to use the advanced weapons. Will they be used for fair and equal justice or for power and control?

The early signs—The UWI students to the media intimidation—point to the latter. The two incidents, which evoked apologies for ham-fisted action, happen to be covered by the media. Are they ‘dry runs’ to test our tolerance limits?

When police are militarised, they are more likely to be attacked (Carriere, 2016). The militarisation of police does not reduce crime. Elite teams neither reduce crime nor enhance public safety and become used routinely in low-income communities.

There is no evidence that this practice enhances officer safety nor lowers crime (Mummolo, 2018).

Photo: Police officers arrest a UWI student during a protest at the school.

The words of the Ministry of National Security (October 2015) about the aborted APC purchase—“… unknown to the PS and the Procurement and Legal Units… a former Minister of National Security unilaterally gave assurance… to the director of the Israeli company… four months prior to the Evaluation Committee’s visit to Israel… highly irregular and did not adhere to the Central Tenders Act…”—tell of a willingness to bend rules.

Dana Seetahal said, “we know even the execution of ten murderers in 1999 did not have any impact on the crime rate… stories of police raids in the dead of night, oppression and death in custody do not make for confidence in the police.”

Will we listen?

About Noble Philip

Noble Philip
Noble Philip, a retired business executive, is trying to interpret Jesus’ relationships with the poor and rich among us. A Seeker, not a Saint.

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27 comments

  1. Just a few days ago, Germany brought several police officers, social workers and people who witnessed the crimes and did nothing to trial for abuse in the immigrant camps. The police beat up immigrants and placed their boots on the immigrant’s neck.

    There are basic facts here in T&T with the UWI event, students were not armed, how could our police response be justified?

    We need to be a very fair, protective but strict society (yes, that mixture does work) but I guess I’ll hear the usual ‘T&T is not elsewhere’ and all kinds of arguments. Well why are we even aspiring to first world status? Why even bother?

    • Linda Louison good point. But there are many persons on this link who will read what you wrote not as a balanced approach but as you suggesting that we be soft on criminals. When I listen to their comments I then realize our issues are much bigger than crime.

    • Brian Harry this is not being soft actually. That’s the mindset problem. Anyway, I do agree that our problems have gone way too far – if this is what you’re trying to say – and so we cannot be healed. That usually comes with too much violence.

      If Italy can still bring people to justice and they had the terrible Mafia to deal with, I would still like to think that we have some hope. There are good stories coming out of Italy now. This is after the Mafia has killed so many including persons in justice. Judges, lawyers etc.

    • Linda I understand your point. When I say it’s bigger than crime, I’m referring to the general sense of hopelessness in TT and that our people just don’t know ‘what next’, so we settle

    • Brian Harry yeah I know, I felt it a long time ago. Agreed. Sad.

  2. While I agree and support the solutions and actions of the CoP to deal with the out of control crime, my mind can’t help wonder if this was the situation years ago in Latin America [militarized police, corrupt political system] where years later the cycle seems to continue.

  3. rather than disarming police i think police need more tools like the electrified baton the pepper spray the taser and cameras around their body to hold them accountable

  4. lets deal with things on a case by case basis
    police are not suppose to shoot unarmed persons and if the person is armed in a building they should attempt to corner him

    however if faced with a man with a drawn gun please shoot with extreme prejudice

  5. Katrina Ffrench of Stopwatch, which campaigns against misuse of the power, said: “The evidence indicates that reasonable suspicion already fails to provide a sufficiently robust safeguard against misuse, so it is deeply concerning that the police are considering weakening it further.

    “It should not be accepted that police can just make up a different standard to suit themselves. This kind of power would be too wide and open to abuse. Any lowering of the threshold … would be a step backwards and could encourage abuse of the power.

    “We are are seriously concerned about the implications of introducing suspicious-less searches on the legitimacy of policing by consent and the relationship between impacted communities and the police.”

    • Fear is on the rise all over and the police are looking to capitalize.
      We have to ask ourselves why we had things like the “reasonable grounds” clause in the first place. Who was it meant to benefit? What do we lose by conceding it?
      These are Orwellian times eh.

  6. Yawn…so many double murders for 2018. Bless Jah for knowing my two times tables. Selah…

  7. We complained that we were not hearing from the man who acted last in the post. We are now hearing loud and clear from the man assigned with the task. What’s the problem again?

  8. Again Noble, great thoughts on this sensitive issue.

    The other thing we know is that the current fight against crime has now been centralized and popularized in one man. This past week he again made it about him. UWI allowed him to derail a panel discussion on “engendering public trust in the police”. He simply said I want to talk ‘alone’ no other panelists will sit on the podium. So I guess that he has the carte blanche authority and ability to fight crime – by himself and alone. Screw the public and other voices. Trust me ALONE! So force will become the only weapon (pun intended), and the wider society will feel its painful brunt

  9. Police service has been ineffective ,so let’s try police force,if only until things are brought under control.