CATHOLIC priest Clyde Harvey yesterday called on police officers to do some introspection before they embark on community policing.
Harvey, who received an honorary doctorate on Saturday from the University of the West Indies (UWI), made the call during his sermon for the Police Service interfaith service under the theme —Reaching out to Communities— at the Church of Assumption, Long Circular, Maraval.
Harvey warned the officers that it is not easy reaching out.
"The communities need to trust you... You have to get to know yourselves and when you do, ask if this is what I really want," Harvey said.
"You have to get to know the communities that you serve. Laventille is not East Port of Spain. Laventille is more than East Port of Spain. Laventille is not only about criminals," Harvey said as he spoke of the number of people from Laventille and other so-called hotspots in the country who graduated on Saturday from the UWI.
Harvey said he heard in the past months from residents in the police labelled hotspots, that when they (police) get a chance they will "come for them", which was discomforting to the residents. He added that with comments like that coming from the Police Service it would be difficult for the communities to support the police.
"If during your training you discover that you don't like people, for God's sake leave," Harvey told the recruits who were also part of the congregation adding they should be careful how they label communities.
Harvey questioned the success of peace treaties and asked how many guns police seized or have been given up by criminals. He said those with the guns will not give them up until they were assured that the police were not against them and the rogue officers are disciplined.
Speaking on police killings, Harvey said when it comes to that in the United States the officer/s involved are taken off active duty and made to seek therapy. He added that even a priest needs help and the officers should seek psychiatric help otherwise they could take it out on their wives and children and ultimately community.
Harvey said in order for this to happen there must be organisational competence and sensitivity at an executive level.
Commenting on Harvey's sermon, acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams said it was "on point" and the thrust that the service is focusing on.
"We cannot be reaching out to the communities unless we ourselves change how we behave... attitudes and behaviour must change and that is what we are hell-bent on doing. We are doing everything possible to foster that bridge, there is no quick fix and hope there can be major support of the media," Williams said.
Concerning the killing of Nigel Jones in Biche on Saturday by police, Williams said it is the norm for officers to be given counselling but not taken off duty. He added maybe the time has come for that to change and take the officers off active duty.
Williams said that the claim of police brutality is the norm in police killings but what was critical was that the matter be investigated thoroughly.
Williams said he could not say how many guns have been recovered in the Laventille area under the peace treaty but it has been less than he would hope for.