In one small, but significant event, a police officer defied his colleagues and insisted on applying the law as he saw it. It is likely that other citizens also saw the law being violated by the trailer truck moving along Aranjuez Road on Monday, from which cargo was “dangerously protruding”.
Corporal Ramphal, attached to the Traffic Branch of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, ordered the vehicle to stop and properly issued a ticket to the driver for dangerously protruding cargo and a defective licence plate. He was only doing his duty to protect and serve, but it was a conscientious and courageous move by the officer since the truck he stopped was actually under escort by other privately hired police officers who had apparently seen nothing wrong with the truck they were escorting.
The Express report said the Traffic Branch corporal admirably “stood his ground” in upholding regulations and law. The violations he flagged and ticketed were evidently being ignored by the other officers, said to be homicide investigators, who seemed focused exclusively on escorting the trailer truck.
All citizens owe a salute to this officer, in the hope of encouraging others to take legal action as they see it justifiable, regardless of the attitude of their fellow officers who may be disposed, for whatever reason, to shrug off violations large and small. Corporal Ramphal was practising the “zero tolerance” preached again and again by his Police Service superiors.
This newspaper’s report indicated that the officers who were escorting the truck reported the incident to their seniors who in turn contacted officials at Traffic Branch. It would be bold-faced in the extreme if the officers, or their superiors, have filed any complaint against Corporal Ramphal. We hope that we are not being too optimistic in thinking that the call to Traffic Branch was to commend Corporal Ramphal’s diligence and professional commitment in the line of duty.
In a fully functional country, such commitment to doing one’s job should be par for the course. Unfortunately, in Trinidad and Tobago, the symptoms of institutional breakdown have become so widespread that an officer doing his job is unusual enough to be cause for public notice and commendation.
The phenomenon of police officers operating for private hire has created enough problems within the Police Service; what we do not need is such officers maintaining a blind eye to transgressions against the law and even condoning lawlessness. If any action is to follow from this case, we hope it will involve a focus on the presence and role of the escorting officers.
At a time of increasing murders and growing concerns about the murder detection rate, something would seem to be drastically wrong when officers from the Homicide Bureau are being hired by private companies to provide escort service.
To Corporal Ramphal, we say well done.