THE aim was to restore the much eroded confidence in the Police Service, reduce crime and place police officers where it mattered most.
But the 21st Century Policing Initiative, introduced by former commissioner of police Dwayne Gibbs in April 2011, is now just a memory, as divisional commanders, in two of the three police divisions —Western, Central — where it was introduced have scrapped the bulk of the plan, according to the Police Second Division Association.
Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams was reluctant to use the word scrapped when asked about the continuity of the initiative, instead saying that he gave his subordinates an opportunity to review it and report how it can be improved to best suit the division and tackle crime in their divisions.
"I gave a mandate to the divisional commanders to revisit the officers, work and the strategies employed and review the ways and means of improving the performance of their division so we could reduce crime in those regions," Williams said, during a recent telephone interview.
Secretary of the Police Social and Welfare Association Sgt Michael Seales in a recent telephone interview said two of the three divisions that had the plan scrapped it as soon as they got the mandate from Williams, which came just after the former top cops Jack Ewatski and Gibbs resigned in July, and returned to Canada.
The two Canadians, who signed three-year contracts with the Ministry of National Security, resigned one year before they expired, and were paid approximately $1.2 m each, as an ex-gratia payment, for their service.
Seales said Central Division was the first to shut down the initiative since they had a programme that they had been working all along as the 21st Century Policing was "unworkable" in that division, making it easier for them to transition.
Seales agreed that such actions could be construed as disobeying the commands of former CoP Gibbs.
Superintendent of the Central Division Johnny Abraham said one of the main benefits of getting rid of the plan was a reduction in crime.
He said there are now constant roadblocks in the division, an idea hatched by Williams.
"I agree that this plan is better 100 per cent but we kept one of the old things from the 21st Century which was that police are outside regularly and officers responding from outside," Abraham said.
Abraham said the old roster system of four days on followed by four days off has been replaced by two days on and two days off. He said this has resulted in a reduction in the number of overtime hours claimed by officers.
"Before officers used to work two days followed by two nights and the last night was the killer... the overtime is far less and we getting more production from the officers," Abraham said.
The plan was piloted in the Western Division in April last year, then introduced to the Central Division and then Tobago. The plan saw officers more in the fields and less in the police stations. Retired officers were called out to deal with the administrative aspects as the officers patrolled the streets.
"The divisions were allowed to present how they want to work. It had the features of it, the Police Support Officers (retired police officers re-called to do reports and other administrative police work at the stations under the initiative) but is different now because there is no 21st Century deployment," Seales said.
Seales said the officers are working the way they did before with some aspects of the 21st Century Policing.
"You could say it is actually scrapped...The way that it is now, the police officers coming to work to do targeted patrols and interact with the public it wasn't like that before. It went back to the way it was before," said Seales.
In the Western Division, Superintendent Ishmael David said in a recent telephone interview, two main aspects of the plan have been kept — the Property and Case Management Sections.
The Property Section saw all evidence being stored at one police station while Management dealt with all the paper work dealing with court cases being housed at two police stations.
David said officers were abusing the four-days-on, four-days-off with some claiming sick leave and brief vacation leave immediately following their days off, resulting in those officers working at least four days monthly.
"Any model that did not cater for hard target patrolling would have been a model for failure," David said, adding that instead of just patrolling randomly, officers are now being specific in the patrols and going into the crime-prone areas.
Asked why were these and other concerns were not raised before, David said they were but they were ignored by the former Executive of the Police Service. He added that officers were working outside of the regulations by driving for more than four hours, sometimes up to ten daily during their shifts.
The programme, which was first launched in the Western Division, was touted by Gibbs, a Canadian law enforcement veteran, as the next step in the process of organisational transformation of the operations of the Police Service.
This, he said, would build on the success of the model station initiative and serve as a road map for increased operational capacity based on enhanced effectiveness and efficiency.
Seven months after its launch, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar endorsed the programme telling an audience of Ministers Responsible for Public Security in the Americas, in Port of Spain that she was proud to reveal that the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service had taken steps to improve policing system.
She said one of the initiatives "21st Century Policing Project" had introduced a modern, contemporary and innovative approach to policing in Trinidad and Tobago.
The Prime Minister, who heads the National Security Council, stressed that when democratic systems could not thrive, economies could not develop nor human rights and dignity preserved without citizens having confidence in the integrity of their police.
"We cannot be oblivious to this reality. If our police organisations do not continue to make progress towards restoring trust, confidence and safety, the hemisphere will continue to experience unacceptably high levels of crime, which is said to be 'higher than any other region of the world'", Persad-Bissessar said.
In fact, based on the success of the pilot project in the Western Division, Cabinet approved funding in late 2011 to expand the programme in Central and Tobago Divisions, which needed more manpower and vehicles to get off the ground.
But fast forward to June this year, when Jack Warner was catapulted into the National Security chair, the same programme became a stumbling block for progress and got the brunt of criticism from the Minister.
Warner accused the foreign Commissioner of importing a plan that just could not work and directed that police stations which were closed at nights be re-opened immediately.
Whether this has led to an improved service from the Police Service will be revealed by year's end when crime statistics are reviewed and analysed, said one senior officer.
In an interview yesterday, Warner said the initiative had not been scrapped but the form that it was envisaged has been cancelled.
He said the plan was from a top-down system, while this model is from a bottom-up approach.
"You can't go to a community and say you want to do community policing and discontinue to involve the community itself... you can't begin at the top you have to begin at the bottom," Warner said adding that the first phase is the community meetings, prior to the community police going to the communities.