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Big shortage of municipal cops

Complaints also of untrained officers

By Camille Bethel camille.bethel@trinidadexpress.com

Both the San Fernando City Corporation and the Point Fortin Borough have serious manpower shortages in their security units.

The representatives of the two corporations, who appeared before the Joint Select Committee (JSC) of Parliament, at the International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, on Friday said the current number of municipal police employed in the corporations was less than half of what they needed to fully man the corporations’ boundaries.

Acting chief executive officer of the San Fernando City Corporation Willa Straker told the JSC the municipal police officers were not staying at the city corporation because of the disparity in remuneration when compared to the central police and this needed to be addressed.

“It is an issue that we have raised at ministerial levels because there is a big disparity in terms of compensation and so what we are having here now, the people who are permanent, the older ones they will stay because they have years of service and their pension, but the young ones as they come they are attracted by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service and it is an issue that has to be addressed because within a couple years we won’t have police in corporations if we do not address this disparity in compensation and numeration.

Acting assistant superintendent of police at the San Fernando City Corporation Leon Lively, who said that there were currently 33 municipal police officers employed in the city, when they needed about 85, also explained that the municipal police were not eligible for the $1,000 allowance the central police got and that their monthly salaries were just $4,000 when compared to the $6,000- $7,000 that the central police got at entry level.

Point Fortin Mayor Clyde Paul, who spoke about the shortage of police in his borough, said:

“We are given municipal police who are appointed without training. This has been a sore point for years. They hire a clerical officer and say you are a municipal police, not precepted, unable to use a firearm, unable to go to court and that poses a problem. Many times we find when people are sick or on leave and you have these people there they are of no use.

They are like telephone operators and even so they are not effective telephone operators,” he said.

Rodger Samuel, a member of the JSC who expressed his concern about the effect on the municipal police throughout the regional corporations, raised the question as to what was the capacity in the Point Fortin corporation and how have they been able to be effective even with the limitations.

The acting CEO of the Point Fortin Borough, Donnamay Taylor, said their strength should be 65 but they were currently at 30. They had approached the relevant authorities to have the numbers in creased. They were given 19 additional officers but that was supposed to be reviewed but it wasn’t done.

“So what has happened is a lot of officers having a lot of compensatory leave gained because they have to work double and triple shifts because of the shortage of manpower what has happened also is we have set up a sub station that augments the need for additional officers,” she said.

She said as an interim measure the borough would have sourced the services of Special Reserve Police (SRPS) to supplement the existing strength and use the CCTV cameras installed.

Paul said that the borough spent close to $3 million on CCTV cameras for the borough and that has helped in maintaining the low crime rate in the southern borough.

“If you hear that crime is on the decline in Point Fortin it is because we are assisting the national police,” he said.
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