Gibbs plan dumped; what now for police?
That 21st Century Policing was destined for the dump after the foreshortened Trinidad and Tobago career of Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs is hardly surprising. Even more than the Public Service, the T&T Police Service has remained a bastion of resistance to new ideas and new methods, a reality reflected in its unhappy results in crime-fighting and generally upholding law and order.
It was galling to elements at various levels in the service that the first new thinking in decades had come from a foreigner. Canadian Dr Gibbs, lacking nostalgia or sympathy for outdated and dysfunctional traditions ranging from uniforms to the Police Canteen, showed little patience for retaining them.
The initiative called 21st Century Policing encapsulated and bannered what the Canadian police chief had in mind. It was always, however, a hard sell to officers conservatively attached to the comfort zones of the past.
Indeed, Dr Gibbs was publicly opposed at every opportunity by the Police Social and Welfare Association, voicing sentiment no doubt privately shared by executive officers. At another level, the Police Service Commission also loudly vented its disapproval of whatever was taking place under the Gibbs policing regime.
Addressing a foreign audience, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar once described the initiative as "contemporary and innovative". But this was not to be taken as an expression of enthusiasm shared by her administration.
In effect, the People's Partnership administration withheld its support from what was being done in the name of policing change. Having played its trump card by assigning National Security to Jack Warner, the Persad-Bissessar administration ensured that, in short order, both Dr Gibbs and 21st Century Policing would be out the door.
Significantly, however, the abandonment of 21st Century Policing has been identified with no alternative new idea. The Gibbs plan had emphasised keeping officers on the move and in touch with central command by means of cutting-edge communication. The Warner plan effectively entails a reversion to past practice of keeping officers inside the stations, even if simply asleep in dormitories during shifts.
Thereby dispensing the mixture as before hardly inspires hope for such improved policing as would reduce crime figures and increase public confidence. Moreover, since it appears that some compelling aspects of 21st Century Policing have been retained, the result looks like a mix and match of the old and the new, without any overarching idea of where it's all headed.
Police stations, closed at nights under Gibbs' rule, have been reopened, but without any assurance of better service being provided through this return to the past. While the rest of the Warner "crime plan" remains under wraps, T&T has to assume that such a plan does indeed exist, and that it differs in important and convincing ways from 21st Century Policing. While that is still to come, it is trust that is the clearest casualty.