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Police Service a scapegoat
While other arms of the security apparatus are failing to perform, the police are being made the scapegoat for the very serious crime situation. Making a strong case in this regard is president of the Police Social and Welfare Association Ag Inspector Anand Ramesar, who speaks in blunt terms about the inadequate functioning of the security arms which he has named.
He is also griping about certain rogue elements in the T&T Police Service (TTPS) who are being given special treatment, which he sees as a threat to the future of the police.
Q: Ag Sgt Ramesar…(Broad smile lights up his countenance) Correction, Mr Raphael, I am acting Inspector Ramesar...
Oops…I am sorry...congrats. So, let’s get down to work. What side are you on, that of the criminals or the police?
A: (A bewildered glance at Raphael in the conference room of the Police Social and Welfare Association on Thursday morning): Well, that is a very straightforward answer. I am a police officer and in my personal life I am always on the side of the law. There is no ambiguity with that. But Mr Raphael, why would you ask me such a question? It is a bit curious, to say the least.
When the Minister of National Security recently announced he was going to augment the strength of the T&T Police Service with the addition of 1,000 retrained soldiers you instructed your members not to co-operate with the soldiers in this anti-crime initiative.
First, let me say it may be inaccurate for you to say that. What I would have said is, the association does not support the granting of the powers of arrest to soldiers, because of some of the challenges we know to exist under such an arrangement.
Are you still against the plan, and why?
In the first instance, let us ask, what is the anti-crime plan associated with bringing the soldiers on board? It is a reactionary plan and one in which you do bulk policing.
What is this thing called “bulk policing”? Isn’t it making the police more visible to the population, particularly the criminal elements?
So you put a policeman here, you put another one there and so on…that cannot be sustained. You need to have a scientific approach to utilise them in response to the criminal activities in the country. And you know pretty soon we may have more police than civilians.
You know that is a joke?
It might be a joke but it is nothing to laugh at.
Ag Insp Ramesar, T&T is undergoing a devastating crime scourge and no stone must be left unturned in our relentless attempts to level the score card and we must trump these imps who are displaying barbaric tendencies in the execution of their hellish activities.
I agree we are going through a scourge, as you have said, but I don’t agree that we should try any and everything to beat the bandits at their own merciless game. We need to know how we go forward in our policing work in T&T.
Mr Ramesar, what is so reprehensible in selecting some soldiers? It is not the entire army under this plan.
It is not one of reprehensibility, it is one of strategy—what transpired historically, and how would it impact on the population as a whole. And Clevon, one of our main concerns is that the association was not involved in discussing this matter as one of the major stakeholders in this very important anti-crime exercise.
And not the least important Clevon, is that of the police service being made to look like the scapegoat for the failure of treating with crime in T&T.
When you look at the picture in its entirety, is that an unfair position?
And I will tell you why (angry expression, slamming the desk), if the soldiers do the job they are supposed to do, if the Coast Guard do the job they are supposed to perform, if Customs and Excise do what they are supposed to do, if traffic wardens do what they are supposed to do, if officers from the Traffic Branch do what they are supposed to do, then you would have a complete picture of everybody doing what they are supposed to do in a multi-approach system to reducing crime in T&T.
Then you have guns coming into T&T. Who are responsible for manning our borders and treating with that? Tell me, Clevon, is it the TTPS? You have Immigration and Customs and Excise. You have drugs entering the island, who is responsible for that? The Coast Guard. Why aren’t they being taken to task? Why not talk about augmenting those areas?
But you know Mr Ramesar...
(Interrupting) You need to nip those issues in the bud, you need to engage in preventive measures and not in a reactionary manner after the fact.
While it is your duty to defend your membership, Mr Ramesar, you seem as though you want to absolve them of some responsibility, particularly when you look at the abysmal detection and even far less, the conviction rate. Does that speak well about your (TTPS) leg of the anti-crime efforts?
If you talk about the detection rate, I have to link everything you say in relation to granting soldiers the powers of arrest. What is the strategy here? There isn’t any at all.
I see you are not answering the last question. If you have a strategy, why do you keep it a secret? Why not share it with the police?
Clevon, we have resources, we have a lot of committed officers in the TTPS, you know, and I come back to one of the major issues in the TTPS—how do we deploy our resources? How do we motivate them? These are some of the areas that I am of the view that if you focus on positively, there will be increased performance in the TTPS and that is the answer to the question you feel I did not want to answer. (Smile)
Ag Insp Ramesar, the TTPS is equipped with a lot of modern resources…
We have CCTV, we have GPS, we have helicopters, other things, but we need to utilise these things and if a proper strategy is in place we can respond in a timely basis.
Are you saying these resources are not being utilised?
What I am saying is that they are not being used within the framework of an anti-crime strategy in relation to the gang culture, the criminal culture, the police culture and taking into consideration the number of police officers you have on board.
Mr Ramesar, is it a case of the police not keeping up with the pace of the criminal elements?
It has to come back to leadership in the service, because leadership is what dictates how police perform. One of the things we learn in training is the speed of the leader and the speed of the pack, so that it depends on how fast your leader wants to move, how he is responding; it is going to affect you, whether you are going to be lethargic or whether you are going to be proactive.
Mr Ramesar, there is still a credibility gap between some sections of the police and the public. Some people are just scared to report crimes to the police…for various reasons, all not pleasant to the police.
Clevon, we have always aligned ourselves with getting rid of the rogue elements in the TTPS. This is no secret.
Since you have become head of the police association less than three years ago how many such cops have been dismissed from the service?
Two so far. And as I told you that system in the TTPS is reactionary, so you have an officer going to court, would win their matter, they return to the service, collect a nice back-pay and life goes on as usual. I have complained to the commissioner and the minister about this system where certain powers are not being used to effectively deal with these rogue officers.
Didn’t the Commissioner of Police recently promise to work hard on weeding the rogue cops out of the system?
(Gently knocking his fingers on the table) I know he said he has a plan to do deal with them. It is good to know he is going to deal with them, but it would better to see some real action in this direction. The association supports this exercise and the TTPS will never survive if there remain within our ranks rogue officers. And it takes just one to spoil the image of the service and we have to deal with them swiftly and without fear or favour.
Ag Insp you have been a police officer for the past 13 years and from your vantage point, how easy it is to kick out a rotten egg from the TTPS?
One of the problems is that the internal department is a failed system. I worked in that department, so I could speak from experience, and there is a delayed action in treating with certain officers, where you would always see selective prosecution. You hand-pick who you want to prosecute. You need to deal with this serious problem in a transparent manner.
It makes no sense you have somebody who is accused of an offence today go before the tribunal tomorrow and somebody who has been accused of a more heinous offences two years ago is still not being dealt with and there is no explanation for that.
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