Spiralling crime and increased mistrust in the Police Service have brought to the fore several questions, such as how capable police officers really are and whether or not the organisation really has been transformed, as ministers of national security and commissioners of police have promised.
Almost eight years after government shelled out close to $80 million to Prof Stephen Mastrofski, the organisation is still in dire need of change, said acting Insp Anand Ramesar, president of the Police Service Social and Welfare Association. He said despite the acquisition of modern vehicles, technology and the establishment of model stations, the public's trust in the service and the detection rate were at an all-time low.
The Police Transformation Project began in August 2004 and was headed by a team under the leadership of Mastrofski, chair of the Department of Administration of Justice and director of the Centre for Justice Leadership and Management at George Mason University in the United States, the Government Information Services web site stated.
Mastrofski and his team were assigned the task of implementing an organisational development project, aimed at increasing the leadership and management capabilities of the Police Service, so as to enhance its effectiveness in the fight against crime.Under the watch of former national security minister Martin Joseph, five model stations were also instituted in West End, Morvant, Arouca, Chaguanas and San Fernando.
The aim was to change the way in which police did business and to bridge the gap between the police and the public.
The current strength of the Police Service, Ramesar said, was approximately 5,500, with an additional strength of approximately 1,000 Special Reserve Police Officers (SRP). He said the sanctioned strength of the service should be at least 7,000.Speaking in Parliament last Friday, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said there were 7,715 officers but only about 2,000 were usually on duty at any time.
Out of the total, Ramesar said nearly 100 officers had degrees, adding that within the last two years 20 to 30 had graduated as attorneys. Just over half have stayed in the service. Others, he said, also pursued postgraduate courses in various disciplines, including management.Despite their academic qualifications they have not been placed in suitable posts but kept in their substantive positions. This, Ramesar said, was a major factor which had resulted in the defeat of the transformation process.
University of the West Indies criminologist Dr Randy Seepersad said officers who have attained their degrees often met much resistance in being promoted and this deterred others from going after more qualifications. He said he has personally known officers who complained of being frustrated because they were not elevated despite gaining additional qualifications.
"We have officers who say they are constantly faced with a lot of resistance by senior officers to be promoted after having earned their degrees and based on that alone, I don't believe we have enough officers pursuing degrees."I personally know officers who have reached as far as their PhDs and resigned because they have nowhere to go in the service."
Out of a fleet of close to 1,200 vehicles, some 300 were also not working, Ramesar said.When Canadian Jack Ewatski became deputy police commissioner in 2011, he said the ratio of non-working vehicles was too high.
The 21st-century plan
Ewatski also tried to introduce his own method of transformation through the 21st-century policing initiative, which was primarily aimed at restoring eroded public confidence and increased mobile and foot patrols.The plan was piloted in the Western Division in April 2011, then introduced to Central Division and Tobago. It saw police spending more time in the field and less in the police stations. Retired officers were also called out to deal with administrative aspects.
But the initiative was scrapped when Ewatski and former commissioner Dwayne Gibbs resigned a year before their contracts expired.Supt Ishmael David, of the Western Division, said in a recent telephone interview that two main aspects of the plan have been kept–the Property and Case Management Sections.The Property Section saw all evidence being stored at one police station, while management dealt with all the paperwork dealing with court cases being housed at two police stations.
Better management still needed
Between 2005 and 2010 the Police Service underwent tremendous transformation, particularly in training, said former junior national security minister Donna Cox.She said during that period, the Police Training College in St James was refurbished and renamed the Police Training Academy. Academic qualifications for joining the police were raised from three O-Level passes to five. In 2007, she said, the Crime and Problem Analysis Branch (CAPA) was also established to collate statistics properly.
Cox said a host of additional subjects were also introduced, including basic investigation skills, court room interview techniques, use of force and crime scene techniques.But what was sorely lacking in the transformation process was management and accountability.Too often, Cox said, officers in management positions were not suitable for the job.
"We definitely need to see greater management and accountability in the Police Service because if there is increasing crime in a particular division, someone must be held accountable. We cannot have people who are just lax."Transformation, Cox emphasised, was gradual and could not take place overnight.Dr Randy Seepersad also agreed greater accountability was needed.
"Without internal governance of the Police Service there can be no effective external governance of the service. Internal governance requires management of the police organisation and the technologies it employs."He said top-level managers often spent most of their time at headquarters rather than in the field observing and overseeing the work of their subordinates.
Saying the low detection rate continued to pose a problem in improving police efficiency, Seepersad said one reason could be the backlog at the Forensic Science Centre, St James."Especially with ballistic cases, which take very long and this is something which must be looked at. Another reason could be the level of intelligence gathered to make a sufficient breakthrough in a case."
Ministry: Police on positive road
Director of Law Enforcement of the National Security Ministry Keith Renaud says the Police Service has evolved and continues to evolve into a dynamic, efficient entity with committed officers.He said officers have been exposed to extensive training in England in different aspects of law enforcement."We added the Cyber Crime Unit, and in that area officers have also received extensive training.
"Transformation in the Police Service is continuous and we have achieved a great deal. We will also be rolling out a new initiative within the coming months to make the E999 rapid response system more efficient."
Seepersad identified and analysed several major changes which occurred within the last ten years and what was still needed:
1. More administrative power was given to the Commissioner of Police (CoP). He now has greater control over hiring, firing, discipline and training and more control over budgetary matters. The CoP was also freed from the obligation to promote based on seniority and could promote those officers/managers who showed the most promise in helping to bring about reform in the Police Service.
2. The Government's capacity to provide policy direction has been enhanced. The National Security Ministry has increased the number of professional staff, including people with law enforcement expertise and other personnel in legal matters, finance, programme development, technology and research and evaluation.
3. Police Service is more accountable and there is independent oversight of the functioning of the organisation by the Police Service Commission and the Police Complaints Authority. The commission has a focus on performance and it serves as a "watchdog" over the Police Service. The complaints authority has the capacity to investigate serious complaints instead of merely monitoring the progress of internal police investigations into alleged police misconduct.
4. The Government instituted a Crime and Justice Commission comprising experts in a range of relevant areas, as well as Opposition representation. The primary function of this commission is to evaluate the public's perception of the Police Service and make recommendations to help improve the legitimacy of the organisation. The aim is to reduce/eliminate the "negative" ways the police deal with the public.
5. With respect to effective technical management there is the need to standardise the way data is collected and implement appropriate training to ensure proper data management. Timelines in recording is also an issue as this obscures crime patterns which could form the basis for policing decisions.
Create a functional organisation based on meritocracy, accountability for performance, rational and evidence-based decision-making, effective internal communications. Under this heading there were eight recommendations:
�2 overhaul the Police Service performance appraisal system
�2 shift the promotion system from strictly seniority to meritocracy
�2 improve the way complaints against police officers are processed, in terms of fairness and efficiency
�2 develop a more reliable data management system to allow for informed decision-making on staffing and other strategic issues
�2develop evidence-based management and accountability
�2 create a professional, properly staffed public affairs unit
�2 effective governance
�2 improve the system for vehicle fleet acquisition and management
On professionalism, Mastrofski recommended:
�2 improve the integrity climate throughout the Police Service
�2 improve the quality of recruit training
�2 improve the quality of in-service training
�2 improve supervision and management through high-quality in-service training
�2 improve leadership at the top, with the assistance of an external executive advisor
�2 establish a command college to promote professional development through higher education, so as to prepare them for supervisory and managerial positions
�2 increase the capacity for strategic crime control