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‘It’s a bad time to be CoP’
Augustine Williams is worried about the timing of his son, acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams’ appointment when the country’s homicide rate is skyrocketing. He is not optimistic that his son—or any other CoP—can eradicate crime. He said the only thing that can save this country now is prayer.
“It’s a bad time. We are in the centre of the crime wave. When you hear as much as five murders in a day it is frightening. We are in a hot spot of crime,” said Augustine, who is six months shy of celebrating his 90th birthday. He said his son’s time to shine was in 2008 when he was nominated for the CoP post. However, the then People’s National Movement (PNM) government rejected the nomination and gave the nod to James Philbert instead.
Stephen’s qualifications were never questioned and his father now believes the selection and recruitment process was flawed. “I felt really disappointed,” said Augustine, a long standing supporter of the PNM, who no longer votes. He said his never complained to him about being sidelined for the post. “He never told me that he was vex with what went on. He chalked up that as experience and he moved on.”
Now that Stephen Williams is acting as CoP for the second time in four years, Augustine said he worries about his son’s safety and that of his two younger sons, Emile and Sylvester, who are also police officers. “When Stephen joined the force I couldn’t sleep. Even now I does still feel uneasy,” said Augustine who also has four grandchildren in the TTPS.
Stephen will act as CoP until January 31, 2013, when a new Police Commissioner should be appointed. His appointment follows the resignations of Canadians Dwayne Gibbs and Jack Ewatski. If Stephen is appointed to serve as CoP, Augustine said, he knows his son will have his work cut out for him.
“You see crime is a funny thing. Regardless who they put to lead, the police service will never be able to eradicate it. All you could do is reduce. What we need is prayers. We have to turn to God. There is too much evil out there.” Augustine feels a foreigner should never again be appointed CoP since there are enough qualified and trained people in the police service to fill the position.
Relaxing in the verandah of his Talparo home on Wednesday, Augustine said, while many in the community believe Stephen is the right man to replace Gibbs, he did not want to count his chickens before they are hatched. “In time all will be revealed. Sometimes a fellow might start well and you don’t know how they might end up. But I have all confidence in my son. I know him to be a straight forward man . . . a no nonsense man. He will give it his all.”
Asked if he was satisfied with Gibbs’ performance, Augustine said from day one the Canadian top cop’s appointment was heavily criticised. Also, there was the rift between the Police Service Social and Welfare Association and Gibb, which left police officers demotivated and disenchanted. Overall, Augustine said, Gibbs was not fairly treated prior to his resignation. He thinks pride made Gibbs and Ewatski throw in their towels and return home.
“In some ways this looked bad on the Government, in a form.” Trekking back and forth from the verandah to the kitchen to check on a pot of stewed beef he was preparing, Augustine who outlived his wife, Sylvia Antonia Williams, admitted that criminals are becoming more aggressive and hostile.
“Long ago when you stepped on someone’s foot in a party you could have say sorry and move on. Now, if you mash someone foot is better you run because you could either get shot or stabbed. This is how the world has become.” Reflecting on Stephen’s childhood, Augustine said his son was never the adventurous type like his four brothers.
“He often stayed in his room and read books rather than play cricket or football.” He vividly remembers flogging Stephen for climbing an orange tree on his farm. “He was warned not to go up on the tree . . . but you know how children like to defy you. He got a good whipping when he came down. I don’t believe in sparing the rod and spoiling the child. You have to keep children in line.”
Though his children no longer live with him, Augustine said if he becomes displeased by their actions he would tell them. “As big as they are they would never answer back. They still have a lot of respect for me.” Augustine praised the People’s Partnership Government for the work they have done since assuming office.
“I find they do very good for the two years. I is a PNM. I would not lie. Yes, they make some mistakes. Manning makes plenty mistake and stupidness to the end. Nobody is perfect.” He said what Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar did for the people, Manning never did.
Augustine said he tried to dissuade Stephen from joining the police service, telling him that he already had a job with WASA testing water, but Stephen told him his heart was set on becoming an officer. “As a father I does worry about him. No matter what, he is still my child.”
The first time Stephen Williams was rejected as CoP, residents of Talparo, the rural community where he grew up, kept their silence. However, they won’t if it happens again. “If they bypass Stephen again for police commissioner we will not take it lightly. We intend to protest,” vowed residents Emmanuel Caraballo, 63, and Peter Thomas 73, who said when they heard of Williams’ rejection in 2008 they were torn to pieces.
They said the entire community debated on the rejection for weeks, and many felt Williams was given a raw deal. If Williams is not made CoP, Caraballlo and Thomas warned, they will mobilise a team and protest with placards. Talparo is an agricultural community located in east Trinidad, near Brazil Village.
“We willing to fight for him...to show the Government our displeasure. First they appointed James Philbert, then the PP Government brought in Dwayne Gibbs. Twice Williams was sidelined. That was not fair.” Caraballo is Williams’ uncle while Thomas said he treats Williams “as family.” “He has the capacity to lead and motivate his juniors in the police service, which is what have been lacking for years,” Caraballo said.
Sitting Inside the Galaxy Recreation Club at Talparo Junction, Thomas said, he would support Williams not because he was born and raised in the sleepy village, but he was most fitting and qualified for the post. A few feet away, former maxi taxi driver Patrick Taldon echoed similar sentiments: “Williams’ appointment is long overdue.”
Taldon said he grew up with Williams, who always displayed great qualities in and outside his home. “We went to school together, except he was in a higher class. I know him to be one way. He is a no nonsense man.” Both Caraballo and Thomas agreed that politics played a major role in Williams’ being sidelined.
“The PNM kept him back . . . stifled him to a point,” Caraballo said. “I feel the People’s Partnership government will give him the nod,” Thomas added. Caraballo said he never heard his nephew talk about having an allegiance to any political party.
“He climbed the ladder in the T&T Police Service, not through favouritism, but hard work, commitment and dedication. This is what should be admired about him.” (SH)
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