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Regaining public’s trust
In their ongoing efforts to win the relentless war against the hei-nous activities of the gun-toting brigands and vagabonds, successive ministers of national security have quite appropriately appealed for the co-operation of the public in this regard. The incumbent, Austin Jack Warner, has joined his predecessors in this patriotic call because, make no bones about it, if citizens do not buy into the wisdom of reporting acts of criminality to the police and other supportive actions, this battle would take longer than we would like to be successfully prosecuted.
A salient ingredient in having this kind of co-operation from the citizenry is that we the people must have our confidence restored in the members of the T&T Police Service, which as we all know is at an all-time low. Another very important factor in regaining this confidence is for people in prominent positions, particularly the politicians, to exercise due care and attention over their public utterances, which can have a positive or negative impact on how citizens should treat with the men and women of the TTPS.
Last week, at a public meeting in St James, Opposition Leader Keith Rowley made what in my humble opinion (please take note, my PNM friends) was an injudicious statement when he indirectly accused the TTPS of falsi- fying the murder figures to make either the Government or the police “look good.”
Dr Rowley told his audience—and by extension the national community—that his party did its own research and found the real number of people killed so far this year was 20-something more than what officialdom was giving the public. Now I consider this allegation a very serious one, as the murder spree is the biggest social issue facing the country and any attempt to cover up the true picture should not be countenanced by anyone in authority, and if this is found to be true this would be another blow against the integrity of the police service.
For now I would give the police the benefit of the doubt and I am calling on Dr Rowley to prove the accuracy of his statement by publishing the names of the victims whom he said his party unearthed, and I would be the first to condemn the TTPS for perpetuating a falsehood on the society.
His accusation was, as expected, roundly refuted by the police at their daily news briefing subsequent to Dr Rowley’s statement, but the last thing we want to witness is a war of words between the constabulary and the loyal Opposition. Again, we would be sending the wrong message to the criminals, and neither do we want to give the impression that some people are gloating over the high murder rate because it would make the Government “look bad.”
As I have repeatedly said, there are times when we have to sink our petty differences in the interest of the wider national good. Anyway, what difference does it make if the figure is 20 more or less? The fact is that citizens, particularly law-abiding people, are being killed by perpetrators without any fear of being caught and public squabbling over the number taken out is not one of the ways of dealing with the problem.
I am also calling on the TTPS to publish the names of the homicide victims for the period under review, because somebody has to be trying to fool the people, and this cannot be right if you are calling the citizens to join the fight against the criminal element.
In a related matter, Jack “Mr Action” Warner last week announced some anti-crime measures, one of them being the possibility of allowing off-duty policemen to take home their weapons, something which I have a serious problem with. One wonders if careful consideration was given to this proposal before making it public. One of my fears is that, because of the number of rotten eggs still in the TTPS, these weapons will fall into the wrong hands.
It is also no secret that some of the law-enforcement officers have been charged with serious infractions involving police-issued weapons, and while we have to think out of the box if we are to come to grips with the homicide rate, this particular proposal is thinking much too far out the proverbial box. To give every Tom, Dick and Jane that right is a worrisome development, and before we do that greater efforts must be made to rid the TTPS of the undesirables—as difficult (if not impossible) as that may be.
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