Noble: Calling (out) the Police; why questions linger on Commissioner’s Cup, ISOS and Bad Wolf Sport

In 2016, our country was the western world’s highest per capita supplier of recruits for the ISIS campaign in the Middle East. We are among the world’s most violent nations, with an average annual murder rate of 32.9 per 100,000 inhabitants(from 2009–2018).

Refugees and trafficking complicate our lives. These trends tell us that our issues need more than the scope and capabilities of traditional policing. 

Photo: A TTPS parade.
(via TTPS)

Creating a Ministry of National Security (MoNS), a super-ministry, acknowledges this reality. National security is an absolute necessity that facilitates all other rights and yet results from a specific social and political process. 

When did our community cease being a partner and become a target? How much social media surveillance is permissible before we judge that it is no longer about crime but about unaccountable, less restricted policing? 

The resuscitation of the Marine Branch speaks to the continuous blurring of the lines within the MoNS. What is the role of the Coast Guard or the Air Guard? Was it acceptable that there was a veiled but public criticism about the lack of soldiers on the street with the State of Emergency declaration? 

The Judiciary is a favourite whipping horse. The media houses are said to be filled with ‘haters’. Do we genuinely believe that only one man stands between us and anarchy? 

Certainly, it is no longer Mark Hernandez, head of the Special Operations Response Team (SORT), who has disappeared after the full-page ad touting his candidacy for deputy commissioner. 

Photo: Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith (right) and former SORT head Mark Hernandez.
(Copyright Abraham Diaz/Trinidad Guardian)

Has the heavy emphasis on increasing presence in the community and arresting anyone who commits a crime, no matter how minor, led to an increased detection rate? 

Police officers continue to occupy the media spotlight for criminal involvement. We appear not to have a few ‘bad apples’ but a barrel full. What does the unresolved accusation against a sitting assistant commissioner of police (ACP) and the failure to investigate despite the Police Complaints Authority’s conclusions say about the TTPS’ internal affairs?   

As a community, we are conflicted. We do not like police officers who act corruptly, yet we also want to bribe the same. In response, it appears that the police have defined certain activities as more dangerous to the public than others and so be able to perceive themselves as not being corrupt. 

What was the ACP’s sin? Was it acting as a consultant or collecting the money? Why was the initial concern of the Police Command about disclosure of the facts? 

Photo: Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith (left) and his wife Nicole Dyer-Griffith (centre) launched the I Support Our Services initiative.
But who oversees the funds?
(via TTPS)

We have a private body (I Support Our Service) that collects money from over 140 companies ostensibly to ‘give back to the officers’. Is there public accounting of this fund? Does this make things more or less murky? Is this connected to the disputed issue of firearm licences?  

How different is this from the activities of the ACP? A little sunshine would go a long way in establishing credibility. 

What should we make of the foray into football? Did the special advisor to the commissioner, also the chair of Sponsorship Committee at the National Lottery Control Board (NLCB), warn that approaching the NLCB would create an ethical conflict? Whose interests was the special advisor serving? Why ask the NLCB for $1 million?

Was the Commissioner’s Cup, a football competition ostensibly for the youth in ‘at-risk’ communities, with an alleged price tag of close to TT$1 mil for one month’s activities superior to supporting the 35 Police clubs? 

President Paula-Mae Weekes, in January 2019, said: “Police Youth Clubs can be, and… often are, agents of change… given the current social and economic difficulties with which we individually and as a nation grapple. 

“Our young people today contend with challenges that either did not exist or were far less acute only a few years ago: pervasive, violent crime, a bleak job market, safe navigation of social media, among others.” 

Photo: Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith (left) poses with then Soca Warriors head coach Terry Fenwick at the re-opening of the Police Barracks ground in St James.
Fenwick stood to make millions from business deals with the TTPS through the Commissioner’s Cup and Bad Wolf Sports.
(via TTPS)

How much support have these clubs received in the same period? How does one explain the two weeks’ delay in requesting the return of TTPS funds from Bad Wolf? How did we not know that the characters involved could not deliver their promises?

Is the answer in Anthony Harford’s 2004 interview about sports sponsorship, in which he said: “If a CEO likes a sport or his child is playing it, he would pump some money into it. We have very few companies in T&T, with the exception of the banks and some insurance companies, that commit to national development in sport.” 

Maybe?

To address these lingering questions, we should call the police!

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