Monday, January 22, 2018

Great escape: corruption or incompetence?


THE mind-blowing ease with which remanded prisoner Vicky Boodram escaped unchallenged from the Women’s Prison at Golden Grove raises a slew of questions and concerns about the system and its ability to protect itself from being duped, whether from inside or out.

Public attention has naturally fallen on the prison officers who, when presented with a request from two police officers on Monday at 5.15 p.m., obediently and, to quote the Commissioner of Prisons, “legitimately”, released the alleged fraudster into “a Police Habeas”.

Even more public derision and opprobrium have fallen on the police officers who secured Boodram’s release, purportedly on the court’s instruction to have her taken before a magistrate in night court.

In response to public alarm, Commissioner of Prisons Gerard Wilson has insisted that in releasing the prisoner into the police officers’ care, “all protocols and procedures” had been followed by his officers in compliance with the Court Note brought from the Tunapuna Magistrates’ Court.

He noted that “whilst the practice is infrequent, it is not illegal, as the prisons merely house remanded prisoners for the court.”
For their part, the police officers may also be claiming that they were legitimately carrying out their duties in accordance with the written request via the Court Note to have the prisoner taken to the court.

Indeed, this entire case may revolve around the origin of the Court Note.  In the Boodram case, it is hard to choose between the two possible evils of corruption and incompetence.
Boodram either walked free as a result of an act of corruption within the police and/or prison service or succeeded in outwitting both.

Whichever one it turns out to be, assuming this mystery gets solved, it must not be allowed to be swept under the carpet after the usual nine days of wonder.  To allow this act to go unresolved and unpunished is to guarantee that it will happen again and again.

As shocking as the Boodram case is, it is hardly a complete surprise to a public that has become inured to strange and illogical occurrences within the police and prison services.

These include a case of rats eating cocaine evidence; numerous cases of prisoners—including some accused of murder—giving the slip to their police guards and fleeing to freedom; and the mind-boggling case of a marked police vehicle being stolen and crashed after it was left unattended with the key in the ignition.

No official explanations could possibly lessen the sense of helpless public alarm caused by these episodes.
Despite heightened public anxiety over criminal insurgency, police officers continue to approach their job in a manner that is far too casual and relaxed.

Even the best security system requires every individual within it to be alert and sceptical.  It may be that poor morale and lack of inspiration is strangling what little professionalism is left within the TTPS.

If this is the case, we can only hope that the current quest for a new Commissioner of Police will result in the recruitment of expert, dynamic and inspirational leadership.