Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The trail of the evidence


(BI) Feedloader User

The death of 32-year-old Stacy Ramdeen during a police raid at her home at Ibis Gardens in Caroni on November 8 should continue to hold national attention, long after the two conflicting reports of her death are resolved.

Excellent reporting by Ian Alleyne on TV-6's Crime Watch recently allowed us to view camera footage of Ms Ramdeen's last hours — a dutiful mother returning home at 3.28 p.m., after picking up her children from school.

The footage shows two unmarked vehicles and a police vehicle arriving minutes after. Faced with a guard dog at the entrance one of the officers threw what appeared to be a smoke canister and the party entered the premises.

The camera shows an officer, realising that access to the home was not easy, returning to the entrance to ring the bell. Within minutes, Ms Ramdeen was dead. The police station diary said that during the raid Ms Ramdeen slipped away into her bathroom and ingested cocaine.

Serious questions arise from that story: The interior of the home showed no signs of a typical police raid. The CCTV was smashed and family documents, jewelry and cash were missing from a drawer. Ms Ramdeen had to unlock four steel security doors, which could have given her time to dispose of any cocaine. Her two children reported they heard their mother screaming, during the raid.

The police station diary said that during the raid Ms Ramdeen became fitful and admitted to taking cocaine. The officers then summoned an ambulance.

Fortunately Ian Alleyne was able to repair the smashed monitor; the footage gives us a different story. Two officers are seen taking Ms Ramdeen's lifeless body out of her home, and attempting to stuff it into the police vehicle.

The first pathologist, Dr Hughvon Des Vignes, determined that there was no cocaine in Ms Ramdeen body, as the police claimed, but concluded she died from her chronic heart condition.

The second pathologist, Prof Hubert Daisley, hired by the family, said it was a homicide — Ramdeen's died from asphyxiation, due to manual strangulation.

Faced with the passionate appeal for justice from Ramdeen's husband, the Government last week secured the services of US pathologist, Dr James Gill, to review the two reports.

We now await his conclusions. Whatever his determination, the fact remains a young mother died at her home during a raid by 11 officers from the Chaguanas Police Station.

What is most significant is the silence of acting Commissioner, Steven Williams. To date, there has been no official comment from his office to assure the public that an investigation is being undertaken.

Add Williams' silence on another video — again shown on Crime Watch weeks earlier—showing three officers from that station throwing a similar smoke canister into a crowded session at Traxx Bar in Chaguanas recently.

Add further, his silence on the reports that those officers, part of a group called "the Chemical Crew", were among the party that raided Ms Ramdeen's home.

Add also, to the acting Commissioner's silence, that of the chairman of Police Service Commission (PSC), who months earlier was very vocal in the press, as the PSC publicly detailed the performance of the past commissioner and his deputy.

And what about the silence of the director of the Police Complaints Authority? She has been holding public consultations, seeking to regain public confidence in the police service.

That confidence will not be restored easily. For far too long, the excesses in the police service have gone unchecked. And media utterances of the chairman and secretary of the Police Service Social and Welfare Association have deepened, in the main, public distrust of its members.

Given the silence of both those authorities, and the "endorsed" excesses of officers—such as the four-month delay in charging former minister Collin Partap—there are signs that the working class, and its sub-elements of working poor, and underclass, are not looking to the police service for resolution, but are turning increasingly to Crime Watch as an alternative to the justice system.

Last week, Planning Minister Bhoe Tewarie announced a National Performance Framework for assessing his Government. Great idea!

Workplace assessments always start at the top. So to evaluate the acting Commissioner fairly, one has to look at the performances of his line minister, Jack Warner, and ultimately the Prime Minister, as head of the National Security Council.

Last week Caricom national security ministers, along with the US Deputy Under-Secretary, met here to discuss regional security issues.

Obviously hoping that regional governments were unaware of her government's recent OPV cancellation fiasco, the PM promised that her Government would purchase long-range vessels, and a fixed-wing aircraft to patrol the southern Caribbean.

At the same time, Trinbago was ranked 80 out of 176 countries on the Transparency International Corruption Index, and given a mark of 39 out of 100.

As Caricom national security ministers huddled, Jack Warner was nowhere in sight. He was off calling Dr Wayne Kublalsingh "a trickster and fraudster".

• Keith Subero, a former Express news editor, has since followed a

career in communication and management.