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The Police Social and Welfare Association is calling for a cessation of the Rapid Response Unit (RRU), whose officers were involved in the incident in which 21-year old Naim Dean was shot and killed on Saturday night. The association is blaming “fly by night” training of Special Reserve Officers (SRP), who comprise the RRU, for the killing of Dean. “The RRU needs to cease operations and do a re-evaluation. Our worst fears have been realised. “The incident is sufficient to bring an inquiry into the recruitment and training of the officers,” the association’s head, Inspector Anand Ramesar, said at a press conference at the Besson Street Police Station yesterday.
The unit was launched by the Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration in January this year as part of the escalation of its war on crime. But Ramesar said they warned acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams shortly after the RRU was established of the possibility of something like Dean’s killing occurring. “And it is likely to happen again,” Ramesar warned. “It’s high time they discontinue the fly by night training of SRP officers in a manner that is not commensurate with their responsibilities. We are calling for a cessation of the RRU and an acceleration in the training of the officers.” He said when the association registered its concern about the capability of the RRU officers with Williams, they were promised regular officers would accompany them on patrols but this not bear fruit. Ramesar said rapid response is a specialised function and its officers should undergo specialised training. “You can’t expect them to undergo six weeks’ training and expect them to function with competence.”
Inspector Michael Bruce, secretary of the association, added that the training of the SRPs for the RRU did not even come up to the regular standard in the police service. Calling for the halting of operations of all similar units formed under this administration, Seales said their officers do come sufficiently under the control of the executive of the police service. Seales said the RRU was the brainchild of Minister of National Security Gary Griffith. “It was not a decision of the Commissioner of Police. It was hoisted onto him.” He said the SRPs were given firearms, authority and all the legal rights of regular police officers but there are no regulations governing their conduct. “They are operating outside of the police service,” he said.
Asked about the number of killings by regular police officers and complaints of brutality against them, Seales said these charges were always reduced to manslaughter in court. Dean was shot after the vehicle in which he was travelling was stopped by the police in the La Horquette, Glencoe area where he lived. According to relatives, the officers searched Dean and three friends who were with him and slapped Dean. Dean began running and was reportedly shot in the back. The association said the shooting is being viewed as a homicide and is being investigated by the Homicide Division. Efforts to reach Griffith, the Police Service Commission and Williams were not successful yesterday.
Rapid Response Unit
The Rapid Response Unit was launched in January this year by Persad-Bissessar. She said the unit would play a significant role in the fight against crime and criminality.
“The launch of this unit represents an escalation on our war on crime and will be an important strategy, not only in helping to win that war, but also to help make our citizens feel safe again,” the PM said then.
The RRU has been in operation since December 1, 2013, in Trinidad and will be fully operational in Tobago by March 2014.
The unit co-operates with the Community Comfort Patrol (CCP), a unit operated by private security officers under the authority of the police service and within the architecture of the Private Security Network.
Comparison in training
• SRPs undergo six weeks of training for the RRU • Regular officers train for six months.
• SRPs have no probation period • Regular officers do
• Police officers performing specialised functions are trained in firearms use, customer service, psychometric and polygraph testing • SRPs are not trained in these areas.