WITH mere days to go before he reaches the compulsory retirement age of 60, Assistant Commissioner of Police Fitzroy Frederick is admitting that indiscipline involving some officers in the Police Service continues to be a challenge.
He says the disciplinary system within the Police Service is overburdened by the number of complaints made against police officers.
Frederick, one of 12 people who, at the Independence Day Awards ceremony was awarded the Public Service Medal of Merit (Gold) for Outstanding and Meritorious Service to Trinidad and Tobago, made the comments during a telephone interview with the Sunday Express last week.
He said there is a need for faster processing of the disciplinary matters to send a message to potential errant officers that heavy and swift sanctions are sure to follow any breach of their public duty.
A police officer for the past 41 years, Frederick, agrees that there has been little improvement in the public's confidence in the police service over the years.
"Once you make two gains (for example) we do a good piece of work today, tomorrow, like the proverbial cow, some officer will kick it down," Frederick said.
"We need to do much more of the good work for a lengthier period of time. Once an officer does something that is contrary, all the good work is erased.
"An officer might be in court, give good evidence, you see it on the papers and so on. The next day you have an allegation of some police officer doing something or you see that some police officer is arrested. So that really does some damage to the confidence building. So you have to keep rebuilding the confidence index all the time."
Saying he is confident of the ability of acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams and the Executive of the Police Service to address and treat with the issue, Frederick said the problem is a reflection of what is happening in the wider society.
"(In an attempt to address that) we started doing some things like ethics training and so on. But it is a challenge because, as I said, if the society seems to be indisciplined, of course the police would not escape because we are not choosing the police from anywhere else but here.
"We would have had a number of units, the Police Complaints Authority and so on, working on seeking to bring some measure of control and swift justice when people make complaints (against the police)."
He said one must also bear in mind that police officers, particularly now, are operating in a very high crime environment.
"Some of those (citizens) who are inclined to crime would not bat an eye to challenge you (the police) unlike ten or 20 years ago."
Frederick, who is pursuing a degree in law, says many factors have given rise to the increase in criminal activity in Trinidad and Tobago.
"In market economies you really cannot escape crime. What you seek to do is to really control and curb it. Recently (Roman Catholic) Archbishop Joseph Harris talked about the education or lack thereof and that those most inclined to crime lack literacy and numeracy skills. Some people complain about the education system. Maybe there is a need to overhaul the education system in treating with all the other social factors.
"You don't have the village raising the child anymore. Sometimes a neighbour cannot talk to a youth now. You used to be able to do that in the past. And that community coming together is now no more. Everybody is singing in their own little groups."
He said there is also a need for the entire criminal justice system to be overhauled for a more efficient delivery of justice to citizens.
But is he satisfied that the Police Service has responded adequately to meet the challenges presented by the criminal element?
"Well the police has made a lot of changes over the years in keeping pace with the development of crime and so on. Of course we are not where we would want to be because we lack a lot of technological tools. Simple tools like the radar gun which we have been asking for for about 40 years and the Licensing Office in terms of having a modern Licensing Department that the police can track vehicles in a real time.
"You have the points system in terms of (curbing) road carnage. It has been on the law books since 2000 but how do you really get that system going when you call the Licensing Department and you can't get the license plate (information) because the computerised system may not show up the number for you in a real time.
"But we have made some progress. We are looking at the technology, we have Crime and Problem analysis, we have a system to deal with fingerprints. But what you have is a lack of preventative maintainance and having to treat with these things when they go on the bum sometimes."
Frederick also spoke of the need for functioning Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras across the country to allow for a better use of the Police Service's human resource and a centralised computer system in police vehicles.
"Once some of these systems are in place I see no reason why we cannot put a handle on criminal activity."
In relation to the national recognition bestowed upon him on August 31, Frederick said he was honoured, pleasantly surprised and humbled by the gesture.
Frederick's dream was to become a professional footballer but he said his skills did not take him that far.
He said the decision to join the police service in 1971 was really fuelled by his need to improve his economic situation as a young man growing up in Sherwood Park in Arima—an area previously known as "The Congo".
In describing his tenure, Frederick said he encountered many challenges along the way but he was always driven by a desire to serve.
"My satisfaction came most of the time from when people call and tell you thank you for what you did for them. There are even guys who I would have had to interdict who would tell me that I dealt with them but I did not lie on them or treat them badly. It gives you that feeling of satisfaction that you would have done your job fairly and subscribed to the oath of your office without malice of favour or ill-will.
"I always try to ensure and tell my charges that the people must leave satisfied and, even though given whatever the circumstances, if it is the (lack of) resources, that you find the time to always give feedback and follow-up."