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The business of policing
Former president of the T&T
Chamber of Industry and Commerce
Those of us who watch crime shows on TV are aware that in the USA, Canada, and other metropolitan countries the police do not sit in police stations waiting for crimes to be reported to them; they are constantly patrolling the streets in police cars awaiting instructions, from a central source, to proceed to a crime situation. Citizens access the service by dialing a simple number. It is in every way “a rapid response” to any crime threatening situation.
This system was introduced by former police commissioner Dwayne Gibbs in the North Western area of Trinidad, during his brief tenure of office. There was no negative comment at the time from the general public. One of my friends who used the service reported that the police car arrived within minutes of his call and provided a courteous and efficient service.
The system was introduced without any fanfare or hurrah, but it was a momentous change in our method of policing. Almost unnoticed by the general public, and perhaps even by our politicians, commissioner Gibbs had brought Trinidad policing into the modern era. Gone were the days, at least in the North Western Peninsula, that reports of murder and mayhem made to the local police station were greeted with the response: “We don’t have any transportation,” or in the vernacular, “We eh have no car.”
This wind of change was apparently too strong for our policy makers to handle, because as soon as Jack Warner was appointed Minister of National Security he had no problem with the termination of the contracts of both commissioner Gibbs and deputy commissioner Ewatski.
This was done for no reason perceptible to the general public. It was unfortunate, since these experienced policemen surely still had a great deal to teach us, at least as much as we could learn through weekend visits from prominent law enforcement officers of other countries. In recent weeks, the slaughter of our citizens has risen to heights which even our wildest imaginations would not have thought possible.
Before and during the Gibbs-Ewatski era, the Prime Minister had responded with an announcement of the launching of the “Police Service’s Rapid Response Unit” at the Knowsley Building in Port-of-Spain. She assured the public that “the launch of this unit represents an escalation of our war on crime and will be an important strategy not only in helping to win that war, but also to help our citizens feel safe again.”
The prime minister gave no details as to how this rapid response will operate and did not credit the Gibbs rapid response initiative as a useful example to follow and expand. We must therefore assume, until informed otherwise, that this plan is home grown like the “Anaconda” and other similar plans with colourful names of years past. We hope that it will not suffer a similar fate.
A word of caution. Early arrival at a crime scene, if this is what the proposed rapid response unit is expected to do, will be effective in cases of ongoing burglaries or domestic violence, and that is a good thing. But I fear that it will be less effective in the case of gang-related murders, since the perpetrators do not linger at the scene and will very likely be long gone before any response, however rapid, arrives, leaving only dead bodies as evidence of their presence.
This is unfortunate because these are the crimes that make the headlines and disturb the public. Those of us who view the crime shows previously mentioned are impressed with what a proper forensic examination can provide as to the identity of the perpetrators, particularly in the absence of witnesses willing to come forward.
I wonder whether similar facilities are available to our local detectives. If not, why not? Do we, for instance, have the facility to identify a firearm from the spent shell casings left behind, or the bullets recovered? The men and women in white coveralls who remove the bodies from crime scenes look impressive, but I wonder what happens next to assist in solving the crime.
Are they a part of a competently staffed and fully-equipped forensic laboratory, or do they just take the bodies to the morgue?
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