National Security Minister Jack Warner yesterday read the riot act to Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs and his charges, vowing that if crime is not reduced he will become their enemy. Murders, Warner said, had become so frequent that they triggered serious cause for concern, especially over the performance of the police.
Warner was speaking at the launch of the Police Caravan at the Brian Lara Promenade, Port-of-Spain, yesterday. Speaking directly to Gibbs, Warner said: "With me, you and your men would have quite a friend...anything you can do to reduce crime in this country, Commissioner, I shall be your friend. "But I tell you openly that if the crime in this country does not go down, I shall be every policeman's enemy."
The days of police driving with their windows up have also ended, as Warner told them to get out of their tinted vehicles and walk the streets. "I expect the policemen to drive not in their air-conditioned vehicle, but with their glass down, and to ask the neighbours, 'How are you, my friend? How are the children?' "Leave your vehicles, men, walk the street sometimes and shake people's hand. That must not be the exception, my friends in the Police Service, that must be the norm."
He also chastised police who, because of their rank and role in specialised sections, believed community policing was not for them. "Once you have on the police uniform, whether SRP (Special Reserve Police) or regular, you are community police," Warner said. "All police officers must behave in a way where they can regain the public's trust once more...they must help to bring back the country from fear."
Warner also threw his full support behind the Police Caravan, but warned that it must bring results for citizens. "We must have a murder-free week, a murder-free fortnight, a murder-free month and then a murder-free year...nothing less is accepted," he said. He reminisced about his childhood days, saying that at the age of ten his greatest desire was to become a police officer.
This desire, Warner said, sprouted when the police band came to his rural community of Rio Claro to play for villagers. "And today I ask myself, where have we gone wrong? Where have the police gone? Here now I am the National Security Minister and my role is to develop the Police Service to what it was in the old days." He said in the "old days," crime was at an all-time low because there was peace, love and trust.
"Whatever was good in the past and worked well we must take that and make it work now." Warner also called on the community and stakeholders to strengthen ties with the Police Service. Deputy Police Commissioner Jack Ewatski welcomed Warner's stance, saying accountability was vital. Tackling crime, Ewatski added, was an ongoing process which included reviewing initiatives.
The Police Caravan is aimed at sensitising members of the public about the roles and functions of different units within the Police Service and foster greater community relations. It will be moving to south Trinidad next.