The hornet's nest raised by Police Service Commission (PSC) chairman Nizam Mohammed last week, when he said the ethnic composition of the police force is not reflective of T&T's multi-ethnic society, wasn't the first time the issue was raised.Similar findings were documented in a 19-year-old study commissioned by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, co-authored by Professor Selwyn Ryan and Dr John Le Guerre, titled Employment Practices in the Public and Private Sectors in Trinidad and Tobago.The investigation, which was undertaken in 1992 when the Centre for Ethnic Studies was established at the University of the West Indies, lends credence to Mohammed's statements.
The study was presented to then prime minister Patrick Manning on November 5, 1993.Prof Ryan admitted that despite the age of the study, it was still "very relevant" and applicable given the present state of affairs in the Police Service."Having done it (the report), we would have assumed that steps would have been taken to implement the recommendations but the status quo has remained the same," he told the Sunday Guardian.Nine days ago, Mohammed told Parliament's Joint Select Committee (JSC) that at the superintendent level of the Police Service, there are 21 officers of African origin and ten of East Indian origin.
Mohammed interpreted those figures to be that there aren't enough East Indians in the upper echelons of the Police Service.From another perspective, his statistics also point to an increase in the number of Indo-Trinidadians embracing the Police Service after they were virtually non-existent during the colonial times.Traditionally, Indo-Trinidadians pursued commerce and agriculture. Their foray into public service was in the areas of health, nursing and doctoring, or to the teaching service.Former acting commissioner of police James Philbert had noted that at $240 a month, policing wasn't an attractive job proposition. A point raised by the Le Guerre/Ryan report.
The report, which quoted a former chairman of the Public Services, states: "They looked upon it as a low-paying job with low prestige in their community. He also agreed that colonial officials felt that Indo-Trinidadians did not measure up to the physical requirements of the Police Force (as it was then) and were often disqualified on the basis of height. But above all, they were disqualified on character inadequacies-and in the belief that 'a Hindu would not arrest a Hindu.'"
Calls to dismantlePromotions and Advisory Board
The former chairman observed that since Independence, increasing numbers of Indo-Trinidadians were accepted into the Police Service but shared the view that they did not take their careers seriously.
"This view was also shared by contemporary Afro-Trinidadian police officers-particularly those involved in training. Their collective remarks are well summed up by the remark of one such officer that 'Indo-Trinidadians are more prone than Afro-Trinidadians to find the rigorous training to be irksome and to walk away from the job.'"Another former training officer also remarked that, "The Indo-Trinidadians do not have the rhythm to perform well at marching."The Indo-Trinidadians, it was said, marched better to tassa drums. This begs the question, as to whose standards are being used since there are obvious cultural differences which inform traditions of military marches.
Further, in 1992, there was a recommendation to have the Promotions andAdvisory Board dismantled.
It still functions. According to the Police Service Act 2006, the board must comprise the DCP, the Assistant Commissioner of Police, the Human Resources Director of the Police Service, a senior officer who is not a police officer, from the Ministry of National Security selected by the Minister and an independent management consultant, appointed by the Commissioner."Recruitment to the Police Service has been commented upon. The Police Service Commission has delegated this function to the Commissioner of Police. Some members of the Commission appear to have lost faith in the procedures applied under this delegated method. "Nepotism is said to be rife in the Police Service. Senior officers seem to be able to influence the recruitment process," the report stated.
In 1980, the population percentage of Indo-Trinidadians was 40.7 per cent.The number of Indo-Trinidadians in the Police Service was 14.1 per cent of the total force.Given equal representation, the study observed that the expected ratio in the police force in 1980 should be 40.7 per cent.
"Indo-Trinidadians, at this time, were grossly under-represented in the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service."In 1992, the Indo-Trinidad population was 39.6 per cent.The number of Indo-Trinidadians in the Police Service was 1,153 out of a total of 4,672, which was 24.6 per cent. "Therefore, all things being equal, the expected percentage in the Police Service is 39.6. Nineteen hundred and ninety-two reveals a possible significant trend towards an increase in the Indo-Trinidadian representation in the Police Service," the report stated.
Indians in Public Service
Beyond the Police Service, Indo-Trinidadians did not apply for employment in the Public Service."It was claimed that they were more disposed to business and agriculture. When they did start to apply, the competitive examinations tended to sift them out as many were unable to pass the English tests in particular," the report noted.But it also expressed a concern that, "In Trinidad and Tobago control of the arms of the state is indicative of a far wider scope of influence than that measured by wages and perks earned from direct employment in the state sector."
This perspective was also shared by Senior Counsel Israel Khan last week: "Most of all, the founding principles of our nation, state, inter alia, that there should be opportunity for advancement on recognition of merit, ability and integrity, and all persons may, to the extent of their capacity play some part in the institutions of the national life and thus develop and maintain due respect for lawful constituted authority."And yet, there is a stark imbalance in the ethnic composition of the armed forces of this country.
"In a multiracial country such as ours, the armed forces should reflect our cosmopolitan nature. If they do not, then this would be a recipe for disaster in the hands of a person with dictatorial ambitions. It happened in Rwanda, Uganda, Fiji and other countries. And down the road it could happen here in sweet T&T."Thus, it is of paramount importance to ascertain why the armed forces (the Army, Coast Guard and Police) are devoid of a significant membership of citizens of East Indian ethnicity," said Khan.
The Le Guerre/Ryan report stated that "perceptions of discrimination do exist, are strongly felt and materially affect the dedication and productivity of a number of officers from both ethnic groups though Indians appear more aggrieved than Afro-Trinidadians."It was found that in a number of cases what was perceived as 'racial discrimination' was in fact the end result of a number of factors such as patronage, family network or membership of a clique.
"It became clear, too, that in situations where the criteria on which promotions or acting appointments were made were ambiguous, there was a tendency towards speculation that glided easily into charges and counter-charges of discrimination," it observed with regard to promotions."It was also striking that certain sections of the Public Services were regarded as the preserves of one group or the other. Competition for such
The data presented shows the trends which have developedduring the last 22 years in the post-Independence Police Service of T&T. Data on Ethnic Composition of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.
December 31, 1970
Positions Afro-Trinidadians Indo-Trinidadian
ACP 4 1
ASP 32 1
Insp 71 1
SGT 143 6
Total 274 9
Note: Of a total of 149 sergeants only six were Indo-Trinidadian in 1970. In terms of age, Indo-Trinidadians tended to be younger than their Afro-Trinidadian counterparts.
January 1, 1980
Positions Afro-Trinidadians Indo-Trinidadian
ACP 8 1
ASP 46 1
Insp 104 7
SGT 222 22
CPL 212 41
CONST 471 108
Total 1102 180
September 14, 1992
Positions Afro-Trinidadians Indo-Trinidadian
DCP 2 1
SUPT 17 2
ASP 41 6
INSP 97 11
SGT 239 43
CPL 589 144
CONST 2,516 946
Total 3,519 1,153
To this end, the recommendations were made in the report.
Some of them include:
• A positive attempt should be made to ensure a measure of racial balance on all interview panels in the Public Service, Municipal Corporations and in the Public Enterprises Sector.
• While it is recognised that the higher echelons of the Public Service should be responsive to the political will, urgent consideration should be given to ensuring that in exercising the Prime Ministerial veto due attention is given to the ethnic composition of society.
• Consideration should be given to the principle of ethnic balance in the appointment of Chairman and other members of the Public Service Commission.
• In order to facilitate monitoring the overall development of the Public Services in relation to ethnicity, it is recommended that the records of individual agencies should include data on gender and race, insofar as they relate to appointments, promotions and other awards.
• Reasons should be given for all appointments and promotions by the Public Service Commission.