Monday, 6 December 2010

New Commissioner "Spinning Top In Mud"

That's an accurate description of what's currently taking place in the Police Service in its fight against crime. And by now, new Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs must be seriously questioning his sanity and what led him to believe that he as a foreigner could succeed in bringing the local crime situation under control.

One cannot help but wonder whether in accepting his appointment, Mr. Gibbs was fully cognizant of the main factors behind the general state of lawlessness in Trinidad and Tobago, and the fact that the Police Service which he agreed to lead represents the worst of those factors responsible for today’s murderous criminal rampage.

Also, the question arises as to whether our new Prime Minister and her Minister of National Security were themselves aware of the full extent of the cancerous rot that had entrenched itself at all levels in the Police Service and the paralyzing inefficiency and indolence that found sanctuary there under the PNM.

The facts are brutal; they tell their own story; none of the former Commissioners, most recent of which are Hilton Guy, Everald Snaggs, Trevor Paul and James Philbert - and we will include the current Acting Commissioner Stephen Williams and the entire current executive of the Service as well - none of them could have survived their respective tenures in the Service with their integrity and professionalism intact unless they were all either blind or deaf, if not both, and probably damned fools and cowards as well, otherwise, each man in his own time, would have rocked the Service off its crooked foundation with public revelations of operational irregularities and criminality within its ranks that could not have escaped his attention or observation over the thirty odd years that he would have functioned in that environment, many of them at senior levels.

And today, Commissioner Gibbs, poor man, finds himself surrounded by and depending on the same Police Service Executive that has proven itself to be impotent and ineffectual in the fight against crime. These are the same men and women who failed to deal with criminality and corruption within the service in any meaningful manner and with crime generally in the wider society. Of course there may be some exceptions to that general statement; officers who may be  hardworking and honest,  a diminishing and endangered minority, who might have tried but certainly did not succeed in reversing the decades old rot that has entrenched itself in the Police Service.

History and God will judge them.

But what makes Commissioner Gibbs think that the current batch of  senior DIKs (Dunces in Khaki) would be of assistance to him now? What skill or competence,  sense of integrity, morality and fair play would they have suddenly developed in 2010 that they could not and did not muster over the past 30 or more years? Having been part and parcel of the overall problems within the Police Service, whether wittingly or unwittingly, having failed to deal with those problems in any meaningful manner at anytime through their rising careers, none of them could now be part of the solution, and that includes Assistant Commissioner Stephen Williams and and all the other local high ranking officers as well.

For Gibbs to succeed in his task, he cannot be forced to depend on the current police executive of compromised officers.

Notwithstanding the powers conferred on him, Gibbs, could not come into this country and just rid the police service of its entire executive. That job should have been done by the powers that be prior to his appointment and he should have been allowed the freedom to hand pick a new executive to ensure that his efforts to cleanse the service and deal with crime generally are not undermined by vested police service interests..

And in saying so we remember the Assistant Commissioner of Police who in 1993 pulled a gun and threatened to shoot the Scotland Yard Officer appointed by the Manning Administration to probe the service. No charges were ever laid against the gun pulling Assistant Commissioner and the Scotland Yard officer hightailed it back to the safety of jolly old London.

But instead, Gibbs was appointed, placed in an institutional straitjacket and told "go and deal with crime" and the people on whom he has to depend to get out of that straightjacket are the same ones who allowed crime to flourish in the service and the country generally.

Those of us who are old enough will remember that the professionalism and integrity of the TTPS became compromised at the highest levels since the days of deceased Commissioner Randolph Burroughs and his notorious Flying Squad, and since then, the situation has become infinitely worse. We have painfully and shamefully witnessed the deterioration of the Police Service in every aspect under the command of various local Commissioners and Executives. With various rogue cliques scattered throughout its ranks, and each acting as its brother’s keeper, the Service has successfully - and all on its own - created an ugly image of itself as the largest organized criminal enterprise in the country, in effect, an integral and inextricable component of the very criminal network that it is sworn to protect us from.

Its defenders will insist that the Police Service comprises mainly ‘dedicated and hardworking officers’, and that its “just a few ‘bad eggs’ giving the Service a bad name”. But in the eyes of many, the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service as a unit has failed in the discharge of its core constitutional function which is to serve the public in an impartial, humane, humble and professional manner by protecting the weak from the strong, the good from the bad and maintaining law and order within the many communities it serves.

That mandate, however, cannot be predicated on or accomplished by Police Officers themselves breaking the law or operating beyond the scope of their lawful authority.

It is our view that the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service is rotten to the core; that contrary to its defenders’ view, it is a few good officers trying, in vain, to salvage and restore some semblance of respect and honour to the Service’s battered image. Our opinion is based on and supported by disclosures over the years by conscientious police officers of Police involvement in activities that run the gamut of organized crime, from providing protection to drug dealers, gun runners and merchants of flesh to direct involvement by police officers in those criminal activities, with extortion, kidnapping and murder (even of their own) topping the list.

Adding further support to our view are the thousands of complaints registered yearly with the Police Complaints Authority by aggrieved and victimized citizens that identify incidents of hooliganism, unjustified and unlawful police brutality and abuse including acts of torture, the receiving of bribes by Police Officers to plant and fabricate evidence to support false charges against innocent persons, and countless other acts of misbehavior too numerous to detail.

The result of all this is that public confidence in and goodwill towards the Service are now virtually non-existent. The Service, or at least what’s left of it, has become a national embarrassment and fiscal liability to law abiding, tax-paying citizens as our courts continue to award sizable sums in damages to citizens aggrieved by wrongful police actions.

What the Government needs to do now and has needed to do for some time to neutralize the Service’s many rogue elements and police misbehavior generally is make the individual Police Officer more liable for his actions by reviewing and amending the law as it relates to the common law doctrine of vicarious liability that would allow him to be sued in his personal capacity whenever he commits any act beyond the scope of his lawful authority or outside of proper operating procedure.

Such legislation must allow any court awarded damages and judgments to be satisfied in the first instance from the officer’s accumulated benefits and pension entitlements and thereafter from his future earnings, personal property and even posthumously from his estate. The errant police officer will know well in advance and understand that there will be serious financial and other consequences to his actions that would impact not only on him, his career and financial well being but also on the future of his loved ones and dependents and their financial well being as well.

In so far as projecting a new image of the Service the State needs to stop scraping the bottom of the barrel in its recruitment of police officers. No longer must the Service continue to be the repository of brute force, ignorance, arrogance and incompetence that it has become. Send home lazy, non performing, corrupt officers who have found sanctuary within the Service and replace them with a different caliber, new breed of officer in whom brawn will be replaced by brain and ignorance by education. Let the high handed misconceived arrogance that has been the hall mark of Police Service and which we have endured for the past 50 years be replaced by efficiency, integrity, professionalism and humility in the service of the people.

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