Gibbs wakes up sleeping cops


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Category: Trinidad Politics 25 Mar 12


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 underwater again.

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 management.

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 off.

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.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur