21st century policing
GEORGE ALLEYNE Wednesday, July 11 2012
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WELCOME TO TT: Maureen Modiselle, the first ever High Commissioner of South Africa to Trinidad and Tobago, smiles during a meet and greet with members...
Trinidad and Tobago should make the effort to move away from the old colonial policy of having fortress like police stations manned by on call police officers, to a system in which the majority of those officers are out on the street, whether mobile or on foot, whose presence would have the effect both of deterring crime and apprehending criminals.
All too often when crimes are committed and calls put through to police stations there has been the response not only of no vehicles, but of no officers at the station to respond to the calls. The police stations, for the most part forbidding structures, somehow convey the impression of being literally far removed from the broad mass of people.
We should follow the system, long introduced in the United States, where in New York, Washington, DC and Florida, et al, police officers patrol the streets around the clock. This will mean an appreciable increase in the number of police officers in addition to a long required change in thinking. Nevertheless, the cost of the increase including the purchase and servicing of additional vehicles will, in the final analysis, prove to be far less than the negative cost of increasing crime.
If this is the 21st century policing initiative being bruited today then the sooner we introduce it to Trinidad and Tobago the better for the country. And while crime is not as pronounced a deterrent to foreign investment as is social dislocation, nonetheless it has its negative effects on the investment making decision process.
In the meantime, there should be a determined effort to halt the unlawful landing of additional guns into Trinidad and Tobago, guns which are brought into the country at the same time that illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin and marijuana are trans-shipped through Trinidad and Tobago waters from Colombia and Venezuela. I make no apology for referring once more both to the modern system set up at the Twin Towers to trace the movement of ships bearing illicit drugs and the unfortunate cancelling by the Peopleís Partnership Government of the contract to construct three offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) for this country to curtail the drug trade. But I have strayed.
The 21st century policing initiative, which will see police officers out on the street and on mobile and other patrols throughout Trinidad and Tobago will bring a sense of security and reassurance to honest hard working citizens and to those who toiled long in the proverbial vineyard and are today virtual prisoners in their own homes, locked in behind burglar bars.
There was a time several decades ago and oddly enough when Trinidad and Tobago was still a British colony, when police officers patrolled the streets. Those were the days of the much feared Peru brothers, when Boysie Singh was still on the rise, contracting to take people to Venezuela by boat and cynically landing them at Trinidadís southern coast. But the police officers were out there, largely on foot, and there was the refreshing feeling of being largely secure.
Our policemen and women are among the best in the Caribbean and rank highly, in my humble opinion, with those in North and Latin America.
What may not be generally known is that scores of this countryís police officers have sought over the years to upgrade their efficiency, many of them acquiring university degrees and several of them are today lawyers. Meanwhile, it is a refreshing sight to watch police officers on duty stop traffic at crossings to allow senior citizens to cross the road or offering directions to strangers.
Their demonstrated courtesy is second to none.
Having more of them on the road will not only make the nation safer, but in the short to medium term make their jobs that less stressful.
Too many persons in this society have tended to underestimate the commitment of the nationís constabulary. Regrettably, we have had our Bleasdells of the 1950s and our Horace Lewises. But these were in the minority.
Let us look forward to an upgraded defence of our nation, its citizens, young, middle aged and old and its institutions. In turn, our police officers should be adequately compensated for the sterling work they are performing, and not simply with bonuses, but with meaningfully upgraded salaries which will translate at their retirement into higher pensions for their benefit and that of their spouses. In the meantime, we should seek to explain to the nationís police officers the across the board benefits in safety and investments which will arise from a properly functioning 21st century policing initiative.