IT is as if somehow, in a most macabre manner, members of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service are intent on testing the resolve of their commissioner to keep a clean house, as much as he intends to help improve the country’s crime profile.
Three police officers were featured on newspaper front pages this past week having been spotlighted for alleged wrong-doing by their own Professional Standards Bureau. They were brought up on charges of misbehaviour in public office, assault, intent to rob, and false imprisonment. And there have been similar instances since the current commissioner’s tenure began last September and way beyond that.
One of the signs of the changed times in which we live, is that the press is not at all timid about highlighting such developments. And at the same time, police authorities themselves are not as minded as their predecessors in seeking to cover up the bad, unlawful behaviour of errant officers.
It was part of the statement of even-handedness with which he advertised his approach to leadership of the TTPS, that the Police Commissioner said he was prepared to deal with “rotten eggs” in the service, with as equal vigour as with ordinary criminals.
For the vital work of rooting out unsavoury and untoward behaviour among police officers, Commissioner Griffith must hold on to his plans for improving the performance of those in the Professional Standards Bureau. This unit remains active and, as far as it is possible to discern, committed to delivering on its mandate, providing an extra sense of assurance in the process.
An anxious public has been quick to repose confidence in the ability and the willingness of the commissioner to fully embrace all the issues which impinge on his mission to turn things around.
He had attempted to get officers in one station in the deep South to agree to lie detector tests, in a proposed plan to address part of the issue involving illegal immigration. Those officers declined, saying this was not, strictly, within their terms and conditions of employment. Their position was tacitly supported by the hierarchy of the Police Association. The commissioner relented, ostensibly to come again. But thus far, there has been no word on his plans for addressing honesty and integrity among officers. Equally, the public awaits fresh word on the matter involving seven officers—six policemen and a policewoman—alleged to have been involved in a racket involving payment for extra duty.
There remains, also, an urgent need for settlement of the issue involving the shooting incident in the famous “Big Yard” in Carenage, in which teenager Naomi Nelson was fatally hit during a police exercise.
A police officer was injured during the exercise, and in a picture released by the TTPS, is seen nursing his wounds. But the issue over whether Ms Nelson was hit by police or gang-related fire remains outstanding.
Resolution here is crucial, otherwise this will only detract from the commissioner’s stated intention to operate without fear or favour.