The logo of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service states ‘to protect and serve with pride’—but the service was once called the ‘Trinidad and Tobago Police Force’. How ironic when you look at the words ‘serve’ and ‘force’. These words, once taken literally, have the ability to impact on image.
The actions and performance of our police officers says a lot about the image they have created for themselves over the years, against the background of the pledge of those who wear the uniform ‘to protect and serve with pride’.
What about the use of force and intimidation to prevent peaceful protest action by workers and ordinary citizens for justice, equity and the provision of basic amenities like water and better roads?
What about police officers who wrongfully arrest and charge ordinary citizens, or those officers who fail to do proper investigations—resulting in the state having to pay damages and compensation because of the short comings and incompetence of police officers?
What about the execution of warrants before the break of dawn on individuals who are visibly accessible at all times?
There are many other incidents too numerous to mention, inclusive of vivid examples of how police officers operate when they feel that their authority is being challenged.
I am not for one instant suggesting that police officers should not establish some sort of authority in the execution of their duties. But there are many instances of officers unnecessarily and aggressively abusing their authority. As such, over the years, the image of the Police Service has been tarnished.
Successive commissioners of police have tried to improve the image of the service but have failed miserably because it appears that once you become a police officer your temperament changes to suit the aura of the uniform.
Seems that they have all listened to and feels compelled to enact the words of Jamaican dance hall artiste Lovindeer in ‘What Police Can Do’.
In my view, instead of addressing its negative image, the current focus of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service appears to centre around the performance of its commissioner of police.
Nothing is wrong with that as he has the ultimate responsibility for the administration of the service. But is it necessary for him to respond to every dog that barks?
Is it necessary to be derogatory and satirically descriptive on comments made by people who do not share his views?
The position of commissioner of police is a very important position and the person who holds it should be able to accept constructive criticism without public responses, which at times reflects the thoughts of an individual who is only about himself.
The image of our Police Service has been so tainted over the years that public confidence has waned significantly. Comments by those in the leadership now, which appear to be guiding the activities of those on the field, is doing nothing to rebuild that confidence either.
It is time for the Police Service to really serve with pride and realise that image is everything and says a lot about organisation and self!