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.