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Strange case of Flying Squad
“We are back,” retired police inspector Mervyn Cordner declared to the T&T Guardian in November 2008. The event was a get-together of members of the 1980’s era Flying Squad, and these officers were appalled at the state of T&T crime and wanted to change things. Mr Cordner supported CoP James Philbert but was dismissive of the imported police assets then guiding specialist police investigations.
“These people cannot go into Laventille or Bagatelle in Diego Martin and get anything,” he argued. Mr Philbert ignored the offer, and the notion of an Flying Squad went to roost until Mr Cordner saluted in July 2012, the appointment of Jack Warner as minister of national security. No doubt Mr Cordner was heartened to hear among the first words from Mr Warner’s lips after the announcement of his new post, of plans to reconstitute the Flying Squad.
Noting that he had offered a crime plan to former CoP Dwayne Gibbs, Mr Cordner noted that the new security minister “needs people around him who can build that foundation.” In early February Mervyn Cordner reappeared to announce that he had been running a covert intelligence unit, a reconstituted Flying Squad, for the last six months.
According to Mr Cordner, a budget of $180 million had been requested to run the operation for two years, but no money ever came. The squad, with a complement of 75 officers, collapsed for a lack of funding and this public statement was meant to win support for the work that had been done so far. That wasn’t what happened. The next day, Minister of National Security Jack Warner denied having any part in a resurrected Flying Squad.
He was joined in emphatic denials by Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams who promised an investigation into what he hoped was not a “vigilante unit.” MSJ leader David Abdulah called on the minister of national security to resign if he had a hand in the creation of a rogue unit of retired police officers involved in unauthorised intelligence gathering operations.
This startling adventure stands in sharp relief with the Special Anti-Crime Unit (Sautt) which paid out its last severance packages to 78 workers in the same week that Mr Cordner was looking for his funding. Sautt, at least, was a project that the public was aware of, with a specific mandate for its operations. Sautt was never formally recognised as part of this country's crime response, but everyone was aware of it and what it was supposed to do.
Nobody, save for Mr Cordner, seems willing to acknowledge that 75 people were gathered to do a job, apparently given space in which to do it, were not paid and nobody is apparently responsible, despite clear evidence that the group had enablers among persons in authority. This whole situation stinks. The country should be rightfully concerned about Mr Cordner’s group, who made it possible and what, exactly, it's been up to over the last few months.
Those answers aren’t available and that's a situation that's simply untenable.
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