By Nalinee Seelal Monday, May 12 2014
Allegations of rampant negligence, dereliction of duty, fraud involving overtime and sexual misconduct have been levelled against both civilian and police staff employed at the E999 command centre at the St James Barracks.
Persons employed at the E999 centre, located in the Barracks at Western Main Road, St James, include civilian staff who are required to take trouble calls from members of the public and then pass information to police officers who despatch E999 and Rapid Response officers to the scene identified in the distress call.
Sources have said senior officers have been turning a blind eye to complaints that the E999 employees are not taking their work seriously and the public was not being properly served.
According to sources, there are many instances when members of the public call E999 and civilian staff, especially those working the 11 pm to 7 am shift, refuse to answer the phones.
In other instances, members of the public are cut off while making a report and some police officers are tardy in sending out distress reports to officers on mobile patrols or to nearby police stations to check on the report.
Last week, Judy Lewis, a mother of four of Gonzales, reported to this newspaper that she was held up and robbed of $13,000 while in the car park of Payless supermarket at Charlotte Street, Port-of-Spain. Lewis said when she called E999, the civilian staff who took her report said the report would be passed on to the police to respond.
Lewis said she waited for 45 minutes but no E999 officer ever came to her rescue, prompting her to make a report at the Port-of-Spain CID.
Contacted last Friday, Lewis said she received a telephone call from ASP Joy Ramlochan of the E999 command centre who told her she had read about the incident where E999 officers failed to respond and she was not pleased about it.
“She asked me to submit a report and apologised for the incident and promised that the matter will be looked into,” said Lewis.
Lewis told Newsday she will write the letter of complaint in the interest of getting the senior police officers to take note so every effort will be made to improve on a service which is supposed to benefit all citizens.
Newsday spoke with Acting Superintendent Wayne Thongs, who is in charge of the E999, and he said an investigation will be launched into the matter.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Earl Gonzales, who has overall responsibility for the E999, contacted for a comment on the reports of negligent staff promised to get more information on the matter.
Several officers who have been working at the E999 command centre told Newsday apart from the dereliction of duties, a situation also exists where two senior officers of the unit have not been on speaking terms with each other and when one senior gives instructions for certain duties to be done, the other officer cancels the instructions. Officers said they are also faced with a situation where an officer has been demanding that an E999 vehicle be sent to his home to transport him to work.
Another officer said there were also instances where police officers were being dishonest about claiming overtime, a situation which was allowed to flourish because of an absence of checks and balances.
“We, the hard-working officers are demotivated because we feel that the public is being given a six for a nine and all the PR about police responding to members of the public when they need the assistance of the police is just a farce because of the nonsense that is taking place and what is being allowed to take place,” said a source.
Officers said when they attempt to make reports, they are ignored by the senior officers.
The officers want the E999 unit to be revamped and new officers put on duty which they feel is necessary to motivate the staff. The officers also want the civilian staff who work at the unit to be retrained and properly supervised.
Contacted for comment, president of the Police Social and Welfare Association Acting Inspector Anand Ramesar said, “Should it be the case that members of the public are being shortchanged and there is a non-delivery of service from personnel from the E999 unit, in so far as calls are not being answered and units are not being despatched to respond to distress calls, that in itself is a perversion to the very existence of that particular unit.” “It is sufficient for the Acting Commissioner of Police to launch an enquiry into such complaints and it would be unfortunate if an investigation is not launched pending an official report,” he said.
“Given the state of crime in this country it is better to err on the side of caution and respond to a prank call rather than risk second guessing the genuineness of a particular call and not ensuring that there is proper police response to any given reported situation,” Ramesar said.