A RETIRED police officer, in conversation with me last week, recounted the adage, "when police vex with ah government it then in real trouble". He continued: "We sent that message to Prime Minister Manning in 1994, the time when we marched around the Red House against his government's anti-police measures. Look what happened to his government in 1995".
That old police saying, the retiree maintains, is axiomatic, suggesting that the current Prime Minister should be warned of its potency as she faces yet another crisis — officers from both divisions of the Police Service are planning to petition against the legislation to grant soldiers the power to arrest civilians.
To be fair to the Prime Minister, should that warning reach her, she may take some time to process it because the other issues before her may be more immediate and challenging.
For instance, last week, with some obvious relief, she passed the "New Flying Squad" file to the acting Police Commissioner, but this has taken a new turn since the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) has assured the public of its intention to intervene in the matter.
Then there is the menacing murder toll, with the new phenomenon of older people among the victims, Mafia-style mutilation of victims, and gangs in the Laventille area burning down the homes of residents as reprisals — all this alongside claims of police abuse against civilians in Sea Lots and Tacarigua.
Further, there is the allegation that the Prime Minister broke Police Service protocol, personally telephoning a middle-level officer for advice, and the further allegation that his report to her resulted in the dismantling of the country's secret service network, the firing of senior staff, and the promotion of technician Reshmi Ramnarine to head the SIA.
The Prime Minister also has to deliberate on the report before her that over $638.8 million in questionable transactions passed through our financial system last year — but only one person was arrested.
On the economy, she now has to redirect her thoughts away from the $30 billion methanol complex, with the Saudi Arabian firm Sabic, which was touted as her government's flagship project to replace the aluminium smelter project in La Brea. Last week, this was cancelled because both parties could not agree on the gas price and terms of supply.
Then people throughout the country have been furious about the mountains of garbage that have been piling up. It is reported that SWMCOL, the state agency given the responsibility to award contracts, introduced a new regime of contractors who are unfamiliar with their allocated areas.
Meanwhile, in our schools, the Minister of Education was occupied with a ban he imposed on an official of the teachers' union just as principals were complaining that their schools were without toilet paper and other necessities.
Back to my conversation with the police retiree. Another retired officer within earshot appeared angry, interrupting our conversation with the exclamation: "Lie detection tests…that's it!"
He soon calmed himself, and in a measured tone explained: "All the questions in this New Flying Squad matter can be solved simply, through Polygraph Tests, or Voice Stress Analysis.
"We, the public, must demand that everyone…regardless, take a lie detector test. It was used by SAUTT; it is being used by the Defence Force now."
His anger, he explained in an interview later, was based on what he saw as the verbal gymnastics in the Flying Squad matter: Former inspector Mervyn Cordner claims that $24 million was spent in the formation of the New Flying Squad. Minister Jack Warner said he knows nothing of the squad's formation, yet his Director of National Security Operations, Garvin Heerah, allocated Cordner eight vehicles, along with computers and office supplies.
The acting Police Commissioner said he knew nothing of the 75-man squad. The Prime Minister, although she has a National Security Adviser, said she too knew nothing of its existence.
He explained: "There is the Polygraph, but the Voice Stress Analysis should be used in its Investigative Mode. The VSA identifies the high-pitched tone a person uses when he or she is lying; the vocal cords tighten under stress. The person mumbles; pitch is inconsistent, and there is shakiness in the voice; analysis will tell you when they lying."
He hopes that PCA Director Gillian Lucky will, respectfully, request such a procedure, and that all parties undergo such analysis. His hope may be a stretch, but it carries validity, particularly at a time when there is the feeling that the country is facing the challenge of a democratic deficit.
The Government's solution, for the hour, is to ignore the danger of a military state as a possible outcome of its plan to give soldiers police powers. Naomi Klein, in her book Shock Doctrine, catalogues, inter alia, the excesses of the military in Latin America. "Operation Condor", for instance, resulted in "the systematic murder of tens of thousands and the torture of between 100,000 and 150,000 people".
That started, just at the point we are now — with fear. Those governments responded gradually with repressive anti-crime measures, human rights violations, suppression of dissent, then institutionalised brutality and "cleansing with an iron broom".
Mr Warner says his next step is "no jury trials for blood and violent crimes" — a dismissal of the centuries-old tradition of trial by jury.
PM, you should really listen to that old police saying.
* Keith Subero, a former
Express news editor, has since followed a career in communication and management.