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Crooked cops a real problem
As the murder rate continues to spiral despite Government’s efforts to clamp down on the criminal elements, corrupt cops are hindering the fight against crime.
So said Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi yesterday, amid claims of police officers allegedly being involved in nefarious activities, including running drug blocks and collecting protection tax, in the Enterprise, Chaguanas community.
The issue was raised by Unruly Isis member Abdul “Krysis” Wakeel when National Security Minister Edmund Dillon and members of the Police Service top brass visited Enterprise last Friday, as gang war continued to plague the community. (See editorial on page A15)
Saying that corruption was a very uncomfortable topic for many people, Al-Rawi said this was a reality. But the AG made it clear that the majority of law enforcement officers went above and beyond the call of duty, adding that allegations of corruption existed across all levels of the protective services.
“Our country has for many years been treating with allegations of corruption throughout the public service and in the Police Service,” Al-Rawi told the T&T Guardian before he spoke at ther official opening of the the Al-Hikmat Office for the Caribbean and South America at the Central Warehouse Complex in Charlieville.
“We have heard of corruption in the Licensing Division, Immigration Division, Customs, TTPS ( T&T Police Service), TTDF (T&T Defence Force), but I am not for one moment pouring scorn on the very many excellent people that do work in these positions.
“But in so far as the allegations, there must be a system for analysis and treating with this,” Al-Rawi said.
Saying that it was difficult to give a percentage regarding corruption which existed in the Police Service, Al-Rawi said the ongoing manpower audit into the service would identify acts of corruption, but more particularly the ability to prosecute, which would ultimately be on the recommendations of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
“However, we as a Government are very conscious of allegations of wrong doing in the protective services,” the AG said.
Asked whether he was concerned that bringing corrupt cops to justice seldom occurred, Al-Rawi said his office had provided outsourced legal resources to acting Commissioner Stephen Williams to assist in this regard.
“It is for him (Williams) and him only to pursue an allegation of wrong doing and corruption. That is a very specific and dedicated exercise which involves allowing the Commissioner of Police to manage the Police Service, as he has the authority to do so under the Constitution,” Al-Rawi said.
On whether he believed Williams was efficiently going after crooked cops, Al-Rawi said he was pleased that Williams had accepted the offer of legal resources.
“The Commissioner seems to be diligent in his role towards it. I am encouraged that making sure that the wrong doing is managed is a step in the right direction,” he said.
Al-Rawi said what was critical in the fight against criminal elements in Enterprise was a direct suppression unit, which may be similar to that of the defunct Special Anti-Crime Unit of T&T (SAUTT). He also called on the Police Service to step up their game.
“I believe it is boots on the ground and I echo the same calls as the National Security Minister that it has to be a sustained effort, but at the same time you cannot focus on one end of it alone.
“That’s why the criminal justice system is so critical and the police manpower is so critical and the organisation of State is so critical,” Al-Rawi said.
The Police Service Social and Welfare Association is currently preparing to submit a file with information it has gathered on corrupt officers to the TTPS’s Professional Standards Bureau.
President Insp Michael Seales said yesterday that the file was almost completed, adding that further information could not be given due to the sensitivity of some of the cases.
But he agreed with Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi that corruption existed within the service “just like any other organisation.” He also agreed that this must be “totally eradicated.”
Seales, however, disagreed that there were corrupt officers who were hampering the fight against crime.
“Even in the midst of that you are still having persons being arrested and taken before the court. If that were true we would have been in a worse position than we are in now,” Seales said.
“I have been hearing this for 20-something years. Isn’t this just another excuse for what is actually happening? But what about the persons who are being killed on a daily basis, that is the issue for law enforcement generally, but there is no connection between that and corrupt cops because corrupt cops are certainly not killing the ... there is no evidence to that,” Seales said.
He also called on Enterprise residents to cooperate with the police, saying even if they did not trust Central Division officers there were many other officers they could go to for help.
Last year, several officers from the Central Division Operational Unit, including an assistant superintendent, were transferred to the North Eastern Division.
The move came after town meetings hosted by the Police Service in Enterprise, in which angry residents openly gave the names of officers they claimed were allegedly involved in illicit activities.
Central Division head, Snr Supt Kenny McIntyre, and his officers were criticised during the meeting for not being active enough in their attempts to tackle the current gang-warfare in the area.
Efforts to reach McIntyre yesterday were unsuccessful, as calls to his cell phone went unanswered, but he again defended his officers against the latest allegations over the weekend.