The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, its public image already tainted by numerous claims that officers are unprofessional, tardy and inefficient, faces yet another challenge, after claims by chairman of the Police Service Commission Nizam Mohammed of ethnic imbalance in the hierarchy of the service.
Mohammed sparked controversy just over a week ago with his contention that the Police Service executive was staffed mainly by officers of African decent, with no East Indians holding the most senior positions. He further claimed that in other top positions, from the rank of Deputy Police Commissioner to superintendent, there was a startling ethnic imbalance, with Afro-Trinidadian officers again in the majority.
His claims sparked a fierce public debate-Does ethnic imbalance really exists in the Police Service? Is there a deliberate attempt to recruit and promote only Africans, while East Indians are constantly being sidelined? According to former acting police commissioner James Philbert, there "has always existed" more Africans than Indians in the T&T Police Service. He maintained, however, that this was not deliberate since the process of promotion was always fair and transparent. Philbert, who entered the Police Service in 1967, said the racial composition of the Police Service initially started with many Africans and very few East Indians. "In the first place, Trinidadians didn't want to join the service, so they brought in people from outside," he said.
"Then the Africans started to follow, but there was always more Africans than East Indians in the service...no one is denying that. "But it was not deliberate to malign anybody, that was just how it happened because at the time Africans seemed more interested than the Indians." He said as time passed, the number of African increased as more and more of them began showing keen interest in becoming police officers. The number of East Indians dwindled as the majority left seeking greener pastures outside of the Police Service.
"Many of the East Indians who came into the service left to pursue avenues that are more profitable like business...People are not realising that," Philbert said. "So the African remained and rose to the ranks." He said East Indians pursued jobs in the Prisons Service, Immigration Department and Customs and Excise Division. The ethnic imbalance, however, is not as severe as many believe, he says, since there are some police stations in this country staffed only by East Indians. "In two or three stations, the population is only East Indians and in every station you go to, you will find an East Indian," Philbert said. He said Mohammed's statements "may very well" create division in the Police Service. Expressing concern about the attrition rate, Philbert said while he was in office, as many as 50 senior officers left in one month, creating a shortage in the service.
Irrational to change law
Philbert, an attorney, said Mohammed's remarks about tackling the purported ethnic imbalance through legislation was nonsensical. "You cannot make a law to say who should stay and who should go and to compel people to stay in the service," he argued. "People have that choice to leave when they want."
Indians "dropped out" before "passing out"
Echoing Philbert's sentiments, former president of the Police Social and Welfare Association, Cpl Emrol Bruce, said even before making it to the "passing-out parade" there was a high percentage of East Indian drop-outs. "Soon after training I would say that more than 75 per cent of the East Indians who had been recruited dropped out even before making it to the passing out," he said. "Some of the East Indians might not have been that physically endowed as the Africans...They came in the service and within five to eight years they dropped out." During his tenure in the association, Bruce said there were never complaints of East Indians being bypassed for promotion. "During my tenure three years ago, we lobbied and were successful to secure a place for members of the association to be on the promotion panel to ensure the system is fair and transparent," he said. A police officer for 31 years, Bruce claimed African police officers who "worked hard" to climb up the ranks were now being persecuted for their efforts. "The East Indians, the majority of them, choose to be masters of their own destiny," he said.
"Several of my batches who joined with me dropped out to pursue careers even in agriculture and have been very successful." Hailing some of his East Indians colleagues, Bruce identified Dyo Mohammed, Farouk Ali, Nadir Khan and Noor Kenny Mohammed as officers who had left an indelible mark on the Police Service. He added that there had been a transformation in the service as more East Indians and even Chinese were joining. "The service has become a lot more attractive, especially where the pay package is concerned," Bruce said. "But some of the people joining are coming in because they are looking for a work...They are not interested in dedication and loyalty."
Focus on building the service
Deputy Police Commissioner in charge on Operations Jack Ewatski urged members of keep their attention focused by building the Police Service. "I think a lot has been said but in the midst we need to maintain our focus and continue to work in an environment that is conducive," he said. "We need to keep our focus to deal with the
POLICE SERVICE EXECUTIVE
Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs
Deputy Police Commissioner (Operations) Jack Ewatski
Assistant Police Commissioner (Mobile) Wayne Richards
Assistant Police Commissioner (Community Relations) Margaret Sampson-Browne
Assistant Police Commissioner (Homicide) Raymond Craig
Assistant Police Commissioner (Crime) Harold Phillip
As of January 1 of a candidate's appointment year, a Trinidad and Tobago police officer must be at least 18 years old and no more than 35 years old.
A police officer candidate must have Trinidad and Tobago citizenship.
Trinidad and Tobago police officer candidates must have passing scores in five subjects, including English Language, on the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) examinations.
Officer candidates must have good general health and be free of conditions that interfere with their ability to perform effectively as a police officer. Candidates must pass a medical exam administered by a government medical officer.
Police officer candidates must be in good general shape and will need to pass an agility test. Male officer candidates must be at least five feet, six inches in height, and female officer candidates must be at least four feet, 11 inches tall.