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Raffique Shah


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Govt, cops 'running and hiding'

August 15, 2004
By Raffique Shah

NATIONAL Security Minister Martin Joseph must be told that if anyone is seen to be "running and hiding" from the spate of dastardly crimes that gets worse on a daily basis, it is the Government, not the criminals. If at this stage, with three policemen being among the victims of latest brutal murders, there are no arrests, then the Government and the police must face facts. They are losing the war even as they boast of winning minor skirmishes and insignificant battles.

After the uniformed policeman was shot dead in a recent maxi-taxi robbery, I pointed out that we had crossed a major crime Rubicon (which the Minister alluded to in his comments last week Thursday). That murderer deliberately shot the hapless cop to make a point: "I 'ent 'fraid nobody, I 'ent have respect for no one". To date, almost a month later, his colleagues do not even have a suspect, never mind coming close to making an arrest. Then the mysterious case of the policeman who was bludgeoned to death in Toco occurred; an arrest was made, but huge question marks still hang over that incident. And without wanting to prejudice the case, I shan't be surprised if the person charged walks at the end of the trial, whenever that comes to pass (maybe three years down the road).

In between another dozen or so murders and countless robberies with aggravation and violence that have since occurred, we had three that stood out as beacons about what is lacking among the policy makers and law enforcers. One was the case at Mohess Road where a resident was bludgeoned to death (these beasts are no longer satisfied with just killing their victims-they must mutilate them or do it "in yuh face", as with policemen). In that incident, an anomaly that has existed in the Service for decades has come to the fore. And that is that, but for a handful of dedicated cops, the majority of policemen believe that like other public servants, they are only on duty between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Worse, their districts or specific duties to which they are assigned are so self-regulated, they dare not cross a street or act with dispatch if a crime is being committed outside their jurisdiction. It is not uncommon to see officers in a divisional police vehicle witness a road hog making life hell for other motorists, and completely ignore his behaviour, because that is the responsibility of the Traffic Branch, not the CID or ordinary divisional policemen.

And to further compound the issue, the association representing officers of the lower ranks has come out against the shift system being implemented because it will deny policemen overtime pay and allowances. If the association's executive can be so insensitive to the crime situation, if they want money first before performance, are they any different to the criminals who rob-because money comes before life?

In the Mohess Road case, the first investigating officers to arrive at the scene allegedly left "because that side of the road was not under their jurisdiction". And that's not an exception; it's the rule. The crime committed and reported does not matter to most policemen at a station. It's whether they are responsible-or it's their colleagues 20 miles away! That is what distinguished the late Norton Registe from these modern-day "saga-boy cops". Registe, as head of Traffic Branch, would come out of his car (on the way to take up duty) and direct traffic to help his men on the ground, or if he found there was need for a cop where none was positioned, he would stop and direct traffic. He acted the same way in every other aspect of fighting crime, never bothering about whether what he did fell under his jurisdiction or not. He'd answer to his superiors later for his actions.

It's a quality that's sadly lacking among most of today's policemen. And while the case in Mohess Road is the most recent and glaring, it was nothing outside the norm. In the second instance, we had the shooting to death of maxi-taxi driver Monderoy. Once more, that shooting was intended to show just how brutal the criminal could be, to thoroughly intimidate everyone else in the maxi. And then came the equally brutal murder of Inspector Edward Williams.

According to reports, the assailants might have been on a robbery spree when they spotted an "easy target" and pounced on the unsuspecting policeman. They apparently then determined he was a cop before shooting him six times and fleeing with his firearm. They could easily have gone into Marjorie Thorpe's house and left a trail of bloody corpses, including those of ex-president Robinson, and my good friends Leroy Clarke and Earl Lovelace. And to add salt to this gaping wound, the police never arrived on the scene until half-hour later, and even when they did, their attitude left a lot to be desired. It was as if it was not one of their officers on the ground with six bullets to his corpse. Maybe they thought it was a vagrant...and even so...

Now, in the face of all this mayhem and murder and robbery, Minister Joseph tells us: "I assure you, these criminals can run, but they can't hide!" What crap! And I say that with due respect, Mr Joseph. Because the beast who shot that constable in the maxi-taxi is still hiding, although I am sure he's not running. The predator who shot Winston Monderoy is certainly not hiding-or even running. And I'll wager a $10 with Mr Joseph that the three jackals who all but feasted on Inspector Williams's corpse will run free and wild, and proceed to rob and kill others. They will not be found. Instead, some other hapless criminals may be arrested (to make the police look good), only to walk free a few years hence.

As I declared at the start of this column, if anyone is running and hiding from crime, it's the Government, it's the police. What we are seeing here is those of us who should be forming an ever-tightening circle of steel around these criminals are displaying a kind of cowardice that's shameful. As an ex-soldier who once thought I could reform this country single-handedly (idealism of youth!), I feel ashamed, I feel betrayed. Never once did I think the forces of law and order would cower in the face of criminals. Now I am not so sure. In fact, having faced an armed robbery once, I have resigned myself to facing death from criminals because I have lost faith in those who are supposed to protect and serve me, Citizen Shah.