Utter irresponsibility! Drastic and dangerous.That's how Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday described recent sick-out action by what she described as a "minority" of "misguided" police officers.In a statement to the House of Representatives, Persad-Bissessar-who met with authorities on the issue yesterday-said a programme of procedures and strategies will be deployed if there is any repeat of the situation which arose a few days ago."I've held discussions with the National Security Minister, the Commissioner of Police and Chief of Defence Staff and plans are in place to deal with the situation as it arises," Persad-Bissessar added.
The PM said negotiations with the Police Social and Welfare Association must continue in good faith."...And better sense must prevail, but I can assure all and sundry, that these talks will not be conducted in an atmosphere such as was experienced by the withdrawal of services by sections of the police service," Persad-Bissessar added.
The Prime Minister said she was obliged to speak "regarding the drastic and dangerous action being taken" by some officers."At a time when your Government is working assiduously and with some measure of success in curbing the crime situation, these irresponsible acts by some members of the Police Service place us all in jeopardy."She added, "I hold each police officer who fails to carry out his or her lawful duty to protect and serve citizens responsible for every crime which could have been prevented, but for dereliction of duty."
"Everyone is affected by the irresponsible acts of a small number of police officers including the very families and friends of those who abandon their jobs."Persad-Bissessar added, "Unfortunately, the action taken by a minority of police officers places immense pressure on their dedicated and loyal colleagues who remain true to their moral and legal obligations and their oath ."Persad-Bissessar warned, "As Prime Minister I can assure you this level of irresponsibility will not go unchecked."
"Those members of the Police Service who may believe that an abandonment of their duty to conduct an essential service such as the protection of our citizens will find favour either with the public or the Government as a negotiation tactic. You can expect quite the opposite."Persad- Bissessar said Government was very mindful of officers' situation, but also had to act with fiscal responsibility and make prudent decisions in the long term national interest "but which in the short term may be unpopular in some sectors."
She added, "The nation cannot be held to ransom. Public safety is paramount and cannot be compromised or used as a negotiation tool. It is the reason why certain services are ordained by law to be essential."Persad-Bissessar said she understood officers' circumstances ."I pledge my Government's support for the dedication and selflessness displayed. I take this opportunity to point out the difficult financial constraints faced by the Government and our desire to turn these circumstances around so that everyone could benefit," she said.
Saying the situation had strengthened her resolve to create a Police Service that "truly understands its duty and fulfils obligation", Persad-Bissessar added."We must not allow the action of a few misguided police officers to tarnish the reputation of the dedicated majority. The Police Service has a long, proud tradition of dedication to citizens and a few random acts of utter irresponsibility cannot erase this history."The Prime Minister assured that necessary provisions have been put in place to deal with breaches of security at every level and that discussions have been held and resources identified to deal with any situation.In coming weeks, Persad-Bissessar added, Government will announce "several major initiatives that will make positive changes" in the lives of citizens. See Pages A8 and A32