A practical police plan


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Category: Trinidad Society Date: 28 Jun 04


"His (Jack Maple-deputy commissioner for crime control strategies in New York in 2001) big thumbtacked map had evolved into the most important law enforcement tool of the last decade: Comp Stat-Computer Generated Comparative Statistics. Before, crime statistics had come in every six months; Jack wanted them every day. He demanded that the lumbering NYPD react faster and be more technologically advanced. He wanted an instant reading on crime in the city, with instant reaction, instant assessment and instant fixes. Every week he assembled 7 a.m. meetings in the NYPD command centre-the war room -where commanding officers were held accountable for the crime rates and patterns in their precincts and divisions-like the separate offices of a large corporation. If the crime rate fell or a ring of burglars was stopped, commanders could be rewarded. If crime rose, they were held responsible and could be transferred, demoted or even fired. In three years homicides were cut in half in NYC."

-Bernard B. Kerik

New York City's 40th Police Commissioner.


If, when you last fearfully looked around you (in the day, in the night) thinking at least murders and kidnappings was on the government and opposition's agenda, think again. What you see is a hot air balloon floating to nowhere.


Sir Ellis Clarke, chairman of the technical team that drafted the police reform bills has flatly said that they "do not deal with the crime situation at all". He is frankly baffled that the bills are now being called "anti-crime" legislation since when it was baptised "that is not the name we gave it".


In any event the cluster of bills meant to simply "improve the police service" is unlikely to be passed. And frankly, as taxpayers, unless there is a direct link between police bills and a safer country why should we bite our nails over police procedures, promotions, and exams?


So what is the police management going to do? Throw their hands up in the air and howl in defeat or wade in, muck down and defeat crime?


The bills may have made it easier to manage the police service but as it's not happening they simply have to work around it.


For this to happen, the top brass in the police service have to be good managers with an objective: reduce crime. And fast. In all districts. And a vision-a crime-free state. The objective has to be measurable (an immeasurable objective is a waste of time).


These objectives must be prioritised with an immediate being a reduction in murders and kidnappings. For example they may decide "if we cut murders in Laventille to zero we cut country wide murders in half." Or "If we put our kidnapping squad in a certain area that will deter kidnappers". They use statistics to come to these conclusions.


The first question is do we have a system to give us measurable information. Kinda. Laborious, lumbering, police taking long-hand notes. Not acceptable. Not fast enough

The optimum long-term solution is Com Stat (see quote above). It clearly works. Linking computers, training people, will take time and money. The simple and short-term solution is to put fax machines in each station so that information from every police station is sent immediately to head office where countrywide information is entered and collated into reports in a central computer system and redistributed. Every police officer should know what's going on everywhere. You know where the crime is; patterns will emerge from that information. You will recognise a gang or a bandit who is targeting housing in one area.


Based on these trends you look at your tools for fighting crime. In order of priority they are:


1. Information. It is gathered in several ways:

a) Tip-offs from the public as manifested in Crime Stoppers. The government has to pump more money into this. It works.

b) Walk-in witnesses or informers. This is hopeless because now people are subject to fear and ridicule. A simple solution would be to create private interview rooms with trained policemen.

c) Information from criminals. We have the legal framework for plea-bargaining. We need to

put it into effect so criminals trade off information for shorter or less severe sentences.


2. a) If you don't have the new legislation and you need to make the police service operate less like a hairdressing salon and more like a law enforcement agency with flexi-time, work with the unions, buy them out, invest the windfall from oil dollars into our country's security. Give police officers a lump sum, increase their pay, make them happy and change the contract. Anaconda wasn't a bad idea except the million invested into "crime" went into "overtime" and dried up.

b) The Police Service Commission was created to avoid political interference and it worked reasonably well. Beef it up. Pay commissioners more. Give them a building. Give them an administrative structure. Give them civil independent investigators to conduct investigations so manpower could be freed up. Make it a full-time job. Let them meet every day instead of periodically. The structure exists. Use it. The police service needs to work with the Commission to create a system of rewards and motivation to retain the brightest officers (many leave) and an active disciplinary system to demote or fire corrupt, lazy, incompetent officers. Implement the law.

c) Bring back traffic wardens. Go on a training and recruitment drive. Make people want to be policemen and women.


3. Equipment. a) Com Stat should be the medium term objective. No modern police force should operate without computers.

b) Force officers to take care of vehicles by making them accountable. If somebody has more than two accidents or drive crazily once too often, make them patrol officers, and take away their travelling perks.

c) Bring in more non-lethal weapons such as pepper spray between the extremes of a useless baton and a lethal gun.


Look, the bills aren't happening and if they do, they are nothing to do with us. 

Crime needs to be curbed. If the will is there, without changing one dot on any bill, the police force can be effective.


Finally, in order to curb crime, we need to copy best practices worldwide. In our forensic departments, in our painfully slow courts, in our prisons which currently operate as a university of crime. Models exist. Solutions exist. But do the managers? In the police service? That, ladies and gentlemen, is the million-dollar question.

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur