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Raffique Shah


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Police Service a disaster zone

By Raffique Shah
May 8, 2018

The Sunday Express described it as a "disaster week" for the Police Service. If I were the editor, I would have headlined the editorial "Police Service a disaster zone". With apologies to the many dedicated police officers who adhere to their oath of office and battle against Sisyphean odds of rampant lawlessness within their ranks and in the country at large, the events of last week involving their colleagues engaging in criminal activities or shameful acts were not aberrations.

They were symptomatic of an institutional collapse that is not unique to the Police, but is frightening because it has become endemic to the organisation that is charged with upholding law and order. Standards, values and ethics in a profession that ought to define the line between order and chaos have all but evaporated. Things have long fallen apart.

What is even more worrisome is we are witnessing this implosion in slow motion, maybe in keeping with modern technology. Yet, we have done nothing to reverse it, no doubt accepting it as inevitable, as our fate sealed in the plethora of scriptures that form a spiritual compass of the nation, from which we dare not deviate. We do not subscribe to a moral compass that defines right and wrong, good and bad.

Indeed, in the prestige pews of our churches of every denomination can be found persons driven by feral greed, sinners, not saints, whose only god is the almighty dollar.

But back to the near-collapse of the police: two officers engaging in a shootout in a public place, allegedly over relations with a third female officer, may have shocked many. But really, it signals a deeper malaise that has afflicted the moral values in the Police Service (and institutions like the judiciary) for a very long time.

In the late 1980s, for example, one Corporal Francis Adams stormed the Police Headquarters in Port of Spain, service pistol drawn, hunting his wife, WPC Maureen Bradshaw-Adams. He found her and shot her dead. He then proceeded to search for a very senior officer, who had by then fled the building, reportedly half-dressed. Francis turned the gun on himself, committing suicide.

That dramatic incident should have alerted the authorities to the potentially deadly consequences of senior officers consorting with the spouses or girlfriends of their subordinates. Whatever the circumstances, the seniors will be seen as "pulling rank" on their juniors. A code of conduct should prohibit such liaisons, the penalty for violation being resignation or dismissal from office.

Such code exists in the military, but it is often ignored, hence useless. The most glaring infraction that comes to mind was when a commanding officer was caught, in flagrante delicto, with the wife of a sergeant on the latter’s marital bed. The CO apologised to the sergeant, assured him that he would always "take care" of him—and there ended the matter, though not the affair.

It is to our peril that we brush aside such behaviour as par for the Trini-macho course when the persons involved carry firearms, as was the case in two of the three incidents cited above. In the more recent, by some stroke of fortune, the two police officers proved to be woefully-poor shooters who missed each other at point blank range, although at the time of writing this, there are reports that one of the duo has died. Luckily, too, the bullets missed other patrons at the mall.

As if the proliferation of firearms in the hands of the lawless is not enough for law-abiding citizens to worry about, we must now nervously scrutinise all armed police officers who are in our vicinity.

Clearly, too, the influx of female migrants from Venezuela has stimulated the appetites of cops who "never eat ah white meat yet". That such deviants will undermine any immigration policy or aid and abet human trafficking is of no concern to them. In any event, some of the earliest brothels that served up Latin fare, from the 1970’s, were owned and operated by a notorious ex-cop who, walking tall like an elephant, enjoyed full support from his serving colleagues in return for favours at his establishments.

Police officers are involved in almost any crime we can think of—murder, rape, robbery, extortion, dealing in narcotics, renting their uniforms and weapons…I can go on and on. The events last week provoked interest only because they were captured on video and disseminated widely through the Internet. Think of hundreds more that occurred but escaped public attention.

It is not news that the Service is rotten to the core. Nor is it a secret that there are many decent officers who, daily, risk their careers and lives battling not only the criminal elements in the wider society, but those within their ranks.

The unanswered question is: how do we clean up the Service, eliminate the crooked cops, whatever their rank, which would give us a fighting chance to significantly reduce crime that is plaguing the country?

Installing a new commissioner will make no difference, let’s be realistic. Setting up an array of oversight institutions that will be powerless against the biggest Mafia in the country will be equally futile.

Until such time as the population and politicians can muster the courage to confront the rogue officers, disarm and fire them summarily (let them sue!), we shall remain at the mercy of criminals in uniform. Things will only get worse.

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