The Port-of-Spain city police officers who refused to work last week, moved from working from below the steps of City Hall yesterday to a space at the back of the auditorium. The police officers were asked to return to work today by Mayor Raymond Tim Kee, while renovations to their headquarters begin. In a telephone interview yesterday, after a tour of the offices with Local Government Minister Marlene Coudray, Tim Kee said city police had been instructed to return to work. Coudray arrived at City Hall around 10.15 am and Tim Kee arrived at 10.35 am. They met for approximately an hour and then called for union representatives of the 85 officers to come into an hour-long meeting.
Neither Tim Kee nor Coudray addressed waiting reporters. They went on a tour of the building but did not allow the media to accompany them. “They are working, but not 100 per cent. But we will see what happens tomorrow,” Tim Kee said. He said renovations to the city police offices had begun last week after a walkout by police and public health officials. Tim Kee deferred answering further questions until he could meet with several corporation officers. The walkout happened after Public Services Association president Watson Duke accompanied media and city police on a tour of the premises last week.
The tour revealed a cramped working space, inadequate room for detainees and falling ceiling tiles among other health and safety violations.
The city police have been facing these issues for several years but reached their limit when a ceiling tile fell and struck one of them last week. But yesterday, they said they had reached a compromise after meeting with Coudray and would return to work from today. They denied renovations had begun last week and pointed to the locked doors of their headquarters, which they said had remained unopened since last week Thursday.
The action follows a month of celebrations of the city’s 100th anniversary, which included a grand ball at the Hyatt, a Miss Port-of-Spain pageant and steelband street parades. Renovations to City Hall, which included brand-new offices for the mayor and deputy mayor, were completed earlier this year. City police refused to return to their “inadequate and unsafe” offices, but have temporarily relocated to a small room at the back of the building’s auditorium. “We are using parts of the hall until August 1 when we will use the entire public hall to house our officers,” said one of the officers.
About 16 to 20 police officers are expected to use the space on a daily basis.
The T&T Guardian was told work on the current offices could take a little over two weeks. “The minister asked that we return to duty and gave instructions that the city corporation renovates the premises so that it would be acceptable for officers to return. “As long as the administration is willing to meet us halfway, we are willing to come out to work,” said a spokesman for the police.
While the building is being renovated, detainees will be taken to the nearest police station, as the temporary space has no room for them.