Sunday, December 17, 2017

Where ‘human rats’ ate cocaine

IF there is a single location that could be identified to tell the story of how badly the Police Service of Trini­dad and Tobago can do its job, it must be the Princes Town Police Sta­tion, which is the sub-headquar­ters of the Sou­th­ern Division.

Here is a police department, in one of

the safest and most storied towns in the country, where some officers have con­sis­tently found themselves in one act of

alleged criminality after another. The buil­ding also happens to be one of the

easiest from which one can escape. It was

at this place that during its for­mal opening in the 1990s, then National Security minis­ter, now de­ceased, Joe Theo­dore said citi­zens of this country were lawless. 

The building was state-of-the-art then. Now, one must step over at least three sleeping stray dogs to get to the front door leading to the charge room.

Some officers at the station may have

also contributed to enforcing the pub­lic perception that police, too, are lawless.

In recent years, accused killers and drug-related offenders have escaped the clutches of police officers while “human rats” were blamed for the dis­­appearance of drugs from the police station’s property room.

The Princes Town Police Station was

disgraced by the 1998 escape of Ica­­cos

fisherman Deochan Ram­dhan­ie from the Princes Town Magis­trates’ Court. 

Ramdhanie escaped from the hold­ing cells at the station on September 17. At the time, the Icacos resident was facing drug-trafficking charges, together with his father, Mantoor. 

Ramdhanie was recaptured in Venez­uela one month later. 

A commission of enquiry was appoin­ted by then president Arthur NR Robinson to probe the escape. The enquiry was chaired by retired Court of Appeal judge Zainool Hosein and included Mira Dean-Amorer, who is now a High Court judge, and retired assistant commissioner of police Albert Peters. 

The commissioners recommended two police officers be charged with aiding and abetting Ramdhanie.

In February 2011, two police offi­cers were slapped with disciplinary charges, in connection with the embar­­rassing escape of an accused killer who outran them wearing only one shoe. 

Accused Wayne Johnson, 26, found a way out of his handcuffs and ran

from the Princes Town Magis­trates’ Court. He sprinted the length of High Street and disappeared near the ce­me­tery at the junction to Lothians Road

and the Naparima/Mayaro Road. 

Johnson was charged with the June 2008 murder of Brent Forde Wil­­­ken­son, whose body was found in a garbage bag, floating in an oil catch­ment pond in the Petrotrin oilfields of Fyzabad. 

Wilkenson was shot through the face. 

Johnson was recaptured a week later. He claimed he had paid the offi­cers to escape.

That same year, teenager Rishi Ra­goo escaped from a cell at the Princes Town Police Station. 

Ragoo was held two weeks later after appearing on a television talk show. Ragoo, through his attorney, Petronella Bas­deo, claimed a police offi­cer opened the gate to the cell and allowed him to leave. 

Two police officers were being in­ves­tigated in Ragoo’s alleged escape. 

Two weeks before Ragoo’s escape,

Court and Process officers foiled an escape bid by prisoners at the court­house after discovering the hinges of the door leading into the courtroom had been removed and the locks damaged. 

There was also the report of nar­co­tics being stolen from the Princes Town station, which surfaced during the 2005 trial of a couple charged with trafficking in more than 73 kilo­grammes of cocaine. 

During the trial, a police sergeant said the year before, he went to check on the cocaine in the property room and found half was gone. 

The couple were freed, and then presiding judge Herbert Volney blast­ed the police, saying “human rats” had eaten the cocaine. 

An investigation into the disap­pear­­ance by Assistant Commissioner of

Police Glenroy Woodley was launched.

Three years later, police suspected 33 kilogrammes of cocaine stored in the same property room might have been taken by the same “human rats”.

An inventory was requested of all evidence in the property room—a place

where items lost, seized or sto­len are

kept, pending use in a trial, returned to 

owners or destroyed by the State.

The cocaine was found by a far­mer, buried in a canefield in Table­land in August 2000 and taken to the Princes Town station to be kept while the drug dealers were hunted. No one was held. 

In 2004, two senior police officers were charged with allegedly stealing a vehicle at the Princes Town Police Station.

Following the reports, officers of the Anti-Corruption Investigative Bu­reau, in an exercise headed by ASP Joseph Edwards, conducted six months of inves­ti­gation and executed warrants for the policemen’s arrest. The officers were given notices of suspension.

And the Police Complaints Autho-

­rity (PCA) has launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into allegations made by an 18-year-old man that he was arrested by police officers who set him afire at the Princes Town Police Station. He said his body was doused with a flammable liquid.

Jamerson John is currently under police guard at the San Fernando General Hospital.

The alleged incident occurred on Christmas Eve last year.

PCA chairman Gillian Lucky said the clothing John was wearing is of key importance in determining where the truth lies into how the teen sustained burns to his body.

John has claimed he was stripped to his underpants, doused with a flam­mable liquid and set afire while at the Princes Town Police Station after he refused to admit to being involved in robbing two people.

The police said John had methy­lated spirits on his clothing before he was taken in for questioning and his clothing caught fire when he touched scented candles at the police station.