Another week in paradise. What a volte face. But a
thoroughly welcome one that restores my respect for Police Service
Commission chairman Prof Ramesh Deosaran who, according to a news
report, “signalled the Commission’s intention to work together with the
Commissioner of Police Dwayne Gibbs on easing the tension between itself
and the Commissioner.”
The fact that this comes on the heels of legal
action taken by the top cop and his deputy, demonstrates that the two
men have put their differences aside and “public safety” back on the
front burner. Which is great for the citizens of this country. But no
sooner does Commissioner Gibbs come up for air, he gets shoved
This week, the president of the Police Service
Social and Welfare Association (PSSWA) Anand Ramesar sent a pre action
protocol letter to Commissioner Gibbs accusing him of “breaching the
Police Service Regulations in relation to the 21st-century policing
project”, calling the project “ineffective” (are they disputing the
Commissioners claim of a 25 per cent decrease in serious crime?)
The PSSWA grouses included meals, overtime, working
hours and deployment. This may or may not have merit. I am in no
position to judge. Ramesar was upset that the Police Commissioner
actually went ahead and launched the second and third phase of an
operation designed to reduce crime without the permission and “input” of
the Police Service Social and Welfare Association.
How on earth is the Police Commissioner of a
country that has among the highest murder rates in a non-warring country
heading a police service that has not been updated since the 1960s, even
dream of being effective if he has to seek the “permission” of the PSSWA
on every decision? Ramesar was reportedly upset about officers being
called out on off days. Really?
When his members signed on to be police officers
did they expect to have regular hours and days off like primary school
teachers? In the third and last column on a series based on an exclusive
interview with CoP Gibbs, I asked him among other things, about the pre
protocol letter being slapped on him.
This week you received a pre action protocol
letter from the Police Service Social and Welfare Association president
Anand Ramesar charging you with “breaching police service regulations”
in relation to the 21st-century policing project. What’s your response?
I cannot comment on that. I just received the
letter. I have to review it and see how much voracity there is in it
before I can comment.
Do you feel like as soon as you come up for air
you get hit again? Does it distract from your actual job?
Without doubt, the things that get thrown at me take away some of the
energy I should be using to focus on the transformation of the service.
Dealing with it doesn’t allow the complete concentration I need to do my
job. But my focus hasn’t changed. I am here to build up the police
service, to help the citizens in T&T feel safe, and I am not allowing it
to distract from our ability to keep working on rolling out the 21st
century police model.
The Police Service Social and Welfare
Association has called your 21st-century policing model “ineffective.”
Since we began rolling out the 21st Century Policing Initiative there
has been a reduction of homicides by 20 per cent and serious crime
including larceny in homes and motor vehicles by 25 per cent.
Is the new system onerous to police officers?
The new deployment system and shift schedules no
longer build in rest/sleeping period. Dormitories have been taken out
and replaced with change room facility and a quiet room. This ensures
that officers are not sleeping in the police stations, but are on the
streets preventing, detecting and responding to criminal activities.
With the new deployment system officers work a
12-hour shift and go home at the end of their shift. The schedule is two
days, two nights, followed by four days off. This gives officers a
chance to spend quality time with their families and obtain much needed
rest. We were able to reduce working hours of police officers by
increasing our manpower with new police recruits going through the
Police Academy’s Enhanced Induction Training Programme.
In the past year we have had more promotions than
the entire history of the TTPS. Officers of various ranks have been
promoted through a transparent and fair process. We created history when
ten people were appointed to the rank of assistant Commissioner of
Police, three of whom were women. The TTPS has been able to create an
environment where women in the Service are fully immersed, participate
in the organisation’s decision-making process, and are equal partners at
the executive level.
All existing vacancies within the Service have been
filled, except the rank of Constables, as that matter is before the
court. We are confident that the legal issue will be resolved amicably.
Despite a high rate of attrition in the Service, I am forging ahead to
ensure policing sustainability through effective leadership and
The Police Social and Welfare Association is
complaining they are not consulted.
The TTPS executive maintains an open-door policy
for members of the Police Social and Welfare Association to meet and
discuss any issues relating to the welfare of all police officers. This
includes a formal monthly meeting between the executive of the TTPS and
the executive of the Social and Welfare Association, which provides
everyone with an opportunity to air their concerns. This was established
in September 2010.
How does your 21st-century model policing work?
The Cabinet approved 21st-century policing
initiative required an entire paradigm shift in the delivery of policing
services to the nation to bring modern, contemporary, innovative
policing to T&T. The TTPS designed a policing model which requires
officers to police the streets instead of sitting in police stations;
placing officers in neighbourhoods and communities, patrolling and
working with residents to prevent crime.
Visibility combats and prevents crime. We work on
the premise that committed, competent and caring officers combined with
modern technology and state-of-the-art equipment is crucial to the
success of the 21st-century policing initiative. My challenge was and
remains to update an archaic, increasingly ineffective system, reduce
crime and victimisation, improve road safety, and provide a citizen
centred police service.
You spoke of road safety. Why haven’t you been
able to curtail that?
The issues are complex and everyone has great ideas
of how to solve traffic and road accident issues—from stopping speeding
on the highways, fixing potholes, educating drivers and enforcing laws.
The truth is it all has to happen at once. The issues are complex and
overlap with society.
In Alberta, where I come from, consultants worked
out best practices with the WHO 2020 vision for traffic around the
world, and national roadway safety plan. It required a systemic approach
to traffic safety engineering, roads, education and awareness, and
policing. It required all the ministries, transport, education and works
to come together in a cohesive manner and work with NGOs. It is now
implemented. In T&T we are doing what we can within limitations.
We can pick up the pieces after a collision, we can
talk to teens in schools about safety on the roads. But due to lack of
legislation there is an absence of a demerit system or automatic
suspension of licences after a certain number of traffic offences. We
can issue tickets but it’s an antiquated handwritten system which we are
trying to change by partnering with all the ministries.
Domestic violence claims many lives in this
country but it’s generally treated very lightly by the police or laughed
It’s true that officers can be insensitive to
victims of emotional and physical abuse but officers are a reflection of
how the community thinks. And if it’s tolerated at home, then it’s
tolerated in the stations. Police officers are growing up in the same
environment. We are sensitising our officers to community policing,
training them on domestic violence, and child abuse.
In North America there is zero tolerance to spousal
violence that unfortunately claims so many women’s lives here. If you
are assaulted—whether or not you change your mind on pursuing the
case—the police can make an arrest. It can go to court and the victim
doesn’t have to be in court in order to convict.
Finally, why do you think our murder rate is
among the highest in a non warring country?
There is no single reason for homicide. Drugs play into it, but we see a
lot of casual homicides. If a guy looks at someone’s girlfriend it’s
enough to get him killed. It is not restricted to hot spots, but
definitely homicides are driven by poverty, lack of education, growing
up without parental guidance.
We see a lot of boys on the block, bright kids,
with no father around, belonging to single families where the mother is
out earning a living for her children and the children are neglected.
Fathers need to be around and provide a positive role model for their
sons. People just need to survive. So they turn to crime.
The murders will drop substantially when social
workers come into communities to care for and support neglected
children, when educational, sport and health facilities begin to rebuild
communities in a tangible way, when the homeless are rehabilitated and
made to feel useful again. If we work one house, one block at a time it
can happen. The most crimes are committed by the 16-35 age group.
Between ages 15 and 18, kids start to
become hardened criminals. They’ve watched their parents, friends,
family involved in drugs and guns. They’ve been abused, watched their
moms being abused. They learn this as they grow and adopt it. The police
can’t control all the anti social behaviours coming out of that. We all
need to acknowledge that this generation needs and gets help: Parental
support, parenting skills, and social service support combined with
solid police force that protects, prevents crime and serves, will
ultimately bring down the murder rate and save this generation.