IAN KEVIN RAMDHANIE
Caribbean Institute for Security
and Public Safety
It’s like a scene from a horror movie, says a municipal police officer at the Port-of-Spain City Corporation, talking about working conditions at City Hall. “Leeches slither up the drainpipes and cling to your skin and suck your blood when you're bathing.” The officer, who did not want to be identified, said many of his colleagues had developed respiratory problems and were seeking medical attention. Others had severe skin irritations.
“This is due to the murky, mouldy and dusty mattresses in the dormitories,” the officer said. “Those who would have slept on these dirty mattresses are now suffering from itching, skin infections and fungus. “Cockroaches are everywhere,” he continued. “Crawling on you while you sleep, sit and stand. They have overtaken the refrigerator, getting into our food—even when we are eating, the roaches crawl into our bowls. It is like living out one of those old-fashioned horror movies.”
The city police are also concerned about security and feel they lack the right tools for the job. Referring to a recent incident, when two municipal police officers on foot patrol on Observatory Street were shot at, he said, “This job has become life-threatening to us. “We are now forced to go on patrols along with the regular police officers at the Police Service to hotspots including Laventille, John John and Sea Lots. We, however, need better weapons and bulletproof vests.”
The police at City Hall are equipped with M&P 9mm, Smith & Wesson 9 mm and 12-gauge shotguns, while regular police have the M&P 5, which is a high-powered weapon, and more powerful semi-automatic handguns. City police have to share worn-out, ten-year-old bulletproof vests, the officer complained. “These vests are mouldy and have fungus growing on them, and that too poses a health risk to us. Three of us have to share a vest. This is ridiculous! We need to be protected from bullets and we need to have effective firearms.”
Backpay is another concern. He claimed that backpay and a $1,000 monthly risk allowance were promised to them since December, but they were yet to receive it. “The backpay (averages about) $46,000 per officer as of this month, and there are about 85 officers at this corporation.” At the municipal police station there is only one holding cell, measuring six feet by four. It houses both male and female prisoners and sometimes, when the cell is full, city police have to handcuff prisoners to chairs, in full view of the public.
“The cell is located next to the charge room, where all our firearms are housed, so these prisoners see everything and know everything, because it is directly in front of their eyes. There needs to be more than one holding cell, and away from the charge room, so the prisoners would not be able to study us while in there.”