Friday, February 23, 2018

Think prevention, not force


Mark Fraser

 As far as I am concerned, Trinidad and Tobago continues to be an embarrassment internationally with the latest stance taken by the Government and, by the Ministry of National Security and the Police Service.

It would seem all the gains that modern policing have made over the years in civil society have been lost by the local authorities. Let’s see what has been emanating from the minister, and others: advisories that bombard us in the print and electronic media; a. it’s now total war; b. deadly force will be met by deadly force; c. time for talking is past; d. we do not meet or speak with criminals, and other rantings unbecoming of any responsible government.

In the ongoing evolution of policing many disciplines have developed, while others have been brought to the fore. I refer to powers of negotiating, psycho­logy, community policing, counselling, diplomacy and rehabilitative approaches to find the causes of the problem with a view to prevention, instead of insisting on deadly force.

Minister Gary Griffith, who is a Sandhurst-trained soldier, has finally found his war and has now buckled down to do what he knows best—“warfare”. It was probably not the best idea to make a soldier the Minister of National Security. As a result, the country is now set to reap the whirlwind it has sowed.

As if this were not bad enough, there is the ever-present threat to bring New York policing to our streets, and meanwhile the situation is becoming worse day by day.

Yes, we have been assailed by the criminal element as a society, and we depend on the security forces to keep the country safe. The problem arises when the situation is mishandled to the extent where things have to get much worse before they get better.

No responsible government should allow its security forces to let go of responsible law enforcement and descend to the same levels of lawlessness as the criminal element, where summary execution of people is acceptable.

Let us take a good look at ourselves and say we are not sitting in the amphitheatre at the coliseum calling for blood, and due process still obtains in our society.

There is always room for diplomacy and tact in everything you do. Realistically, we may be past the tipping point to immediately curb crime and violence, but let us look more at fixing what is wrong, and prevention. Sadly, a generation might be lost in the process, but let us strive to make our country a safer place for the young ones in the not-too-distant future. 

Let us take a harder look at poverty prevention, unemployed youth, more fathers taking up their responsibilities in the family. Bring in the youth who are outside of the educational system, through sport and social programmes, open more trade schools.

I am of the opinion that most wrongdoers, if given a choice, would choose the right way. Bring back community policing; things cannot get worse. The LifeSport programme is a good idea, if run properly, but spread it around the country for many more to benefit. I do not think bullets would solve all our problems.

Joel Quintal

San Fernando