Considering a new commissioner

By Raffique Shah
October 19, 2017

Raffique ShahThe last hope we have for reining in runaway crime in this country lies with a leader yet unknown, the man or woman who will be recommended by the Police Service Commission to be named Commissioner of Police, subject to approval by Parliament. In fact, since crime affects so many aspects of citizens’ daily lives as well as the country’s economy, and because the Police Service is, or ought to be, the spearhead of any assault on crime, the new commissioner will carry on his shoulders a burden bigger than Government’s, and greater expectations than any other office-holder in the State-apparatus—the President, the Prime Minister or the Chief Justice.

For these reasons, the convoluted selection process that finally got underway last August, which, according to the PSC, will take four months, must yield a virtual superman who is capable of not only delivering us from the evils of crime, but of restoring law and order in the wider society.

It’s a tall order, I know. But believe me, this country needs a real hero at this time, someone whose integrity is intact, whose fortitude is limitless, someone who, while not disrespecting the hierarchy or the people he will protect and serve, will prosecute lawbreakers at every level of the society, from so-called white collar criminals to rogue elements within the police ranks, captain to crook.

The selection process will also yield a deputy commissioner who must be of similar stature to the CoP, since that person will assist the Commissioner in his duties, and act as CoP when the chief is on leave or otherwise unavailable.

My emphatic pronouncement of the “last hope” resting with the brave souls who offer themselves for these unenviable positions, especially that of Commissioner, may seem to be over-dramatic, or fuelling excessive expectations of a mere mortal. I argue, though, that the challenges facing the new CoP are Herculean, hence require superior leadership and management skills, if he is to have any impact on crime and criminality that have permeated the Police Service and the wider society.

To illustrate just how rotten the system is, there may well be so-called white collar criminals who will do whatever they can to ensure that a fiercely-independent, competent candidate, does not get the job—and I’m not joking when I make this assertion.

And if, perchance, he gets past that hurdle and is appointed Commissioner, he will need a combination of titanium body armour and potions from the inheritors of Papa Neezer’s spiritual sanctum to protect him from the vipers that surround him in the Service he will lead.

I take no pleasure in painting this grim picture of what the new CoP will face in the few weeks between his selection and sitting in the commander’s chair. Note well, I have not yet mentioned fighting crime and criminals, which should be his prime focus, by which law-abiding citizens will judge him.

Ideally, he would be someone with good leadership skills that he will have acquired by a combination of training, experience and self-development. He would lead by example, especially when it comes to integrity, the independence that is expected of his office, and display a work ethic that will inspire his subordinates. These qualities will enable him to command the respect of all decent police officers, which is critical to what he must do within the Service as a prerequisite to fighting crime.

Even before he embarks on the war that so many of his predecessors and line ministers have repeatedly declared but failed to prosecute, he must be sure that none among his troops are sleeping or dealing with the enemy-the criminal elements. All rogue officers must be purged from the ranks, once there is sufficient evidence to suggest they are “fifth columnists”.

The new Commissioner must be given the powers to suspend, even fire, such elements, whatever their ranks and duration of service: they are part of the problem, so they cannot be part of the solution. Let them take legal action, as they will. It is better the State pay one or two thousand such miscreants one or two billion dollars in court awards if the results are halving the number of murders, reducing all serious crimes by, say, seventy percent, and substantially increasing the detection, prosecution and conviction rates.

Desperate times call for desperate measures: we have long passed that state, thanks to some of these said police officers who have not only failed the citizenry, but who are part of the multi-billion-dollar criminal enterprise. Weed them out!

Maybe I’m too much of a dreamer to even contemplate the prospect of a competent, brave, pro-active top cop. Given that the selection process has yielded nothing in five years, except ten Oscars and two Emmys for Stephen Williams, the longest-serving acting commissioner in the world, I am overly optimistic.

Better to dream, though, than to come awake daily to the nightmares of guns and bullets and blood that all citizens must envisage or endure, but none more so than we older people who are easy targets for today’s unconscionable criminals.

10 Responses to “Considering a new commissioner”


  • ‘Better to dream, though, than to come awake daily to the nightmares of guns and bullets and blood that all citizens must envisage or endure, but none more so than we older people who are easy targets for today’s unconscionable criminals’.

    ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.

    One can spend a lot of time screening for the best candidates only for the desired professionals to be slaughtered in a few minutes e.g., the wanton and targeted murders of two prominent citizens of integrity who come to my mind, Selwyn Richardson former Minister of National Security, Attorney General and Harry Ramsankar former Commissioner of Customs and Excise. Also Dana Seetahal just a couple of years ago.

    We have a history of endemic proportions, that it is not only a case of we like it so but that segment of the population who don’t like it so and deals with it as seem fit to them. Reference can also be made of Gene Miles and O’Halloran meaning, the scenario cuts right across socio-economic lines.

  • Randy Burroughs was a “hands on” commissioner who went out met informants and exchange cash for information. It was the safest time in TNT history until drugs got to him.

    Any new Commissioner of police must be a “hands on” guy. Unfortunately the current mold has to be broken and reshaped. Unless that is done then the CoP will be relegated to sitting behind a desk and twiddling his thumb whilst the nation burn. A proactive commissioner calls meets and plan with those on the ground. That is call taking the fight to the streets.

  • The history of the police, is one that’s rooted in the bosom of slavery and oppression, zero tolerance repressive measures used on run away first peoples, and the African held in chattel. England’ victorian ideals were used in enacting the Barbados slave code in 1670,Jamaica in 1664, South Carolina in 1770, Antigua in1702. As a matter of fact, at one time in Trinidad’ history, a vast number of the constabulary was Africans from the island of Barbados. Policing today,still resemble that of 300yrs ago, to the list of run away first peoples and Africans held chattel, undocumented immigrants, political activist are added. The slogans, “protect and serve”, “committed to excellence” are not directed to the policed neighborhoods, but at those in position of power. Interactions and dialogue with the working class, and communities of color are reduced to abusive behavior and legalized violence. Police must be friendly to all members of the society, while enforcing the law in a none bias manner, police should protect, and uphold the law of the state, not as instruments of oppression and control. As the state militia, some of the policemen in Trinidad, who should have been jailed in most instances, were promoted and given the highest order of the land, the TRINITY CROSS.Today, we have just as many criminals in uniform, as in the streets, do we have any morally elevated individual in Trinidad to lead the police service we desire? most people doubt it, the former former security minister in Kamla’ administration,have to much BAGGAGE. We need a commissioner with zero tolerance, not only for the streets, but also for the constabulary, we also need a tribunal to take care expeditiously, when policemen steps out of line, A CXC exam paper, is not enough to become a policeman, human relation must be added to the training, six months training isn’t enough to have a young man or woman on the streets upholding the civic law. Teach the officers, that the uniform does not make him a policeman or policewoman, a lot more goes into it, their illegal actions, must have consequences. The Prison services, the other arm of the militia complains of having 16 murders of their members over the last 15yrs, they need to understand, that they cannot continue to physically abuse prisoners behind the closed walls and not be disciplined by the authorities, cause and effect i may say. The BLACK LIVES MATTER movement, is a stand against police brutality, in most cases, white policemen shooting unarmed Africans, and indigenous young men of the western hemisphere, In Trinidad, Jamaica, Guyana and other African populated islands, Africans in the uniform of oppression, are killing their own people. Teach these uneducated Africans and Indians their history, and maybe, just maybe policing will be seen in a different light.

    • Cooper you are spot on!

      Who we go put?. It would seem that we need a person with policing experience and I concur with the suggestion that he/she should come from the outside. Why the outside?
      Coming from the outside means that he/she owes allegiance to no one, unless, of course, our system or bribery and corruption gets to his/her fancy. In the same vein at least the top four deputies should come from UK, Canada, US or another Caribbean island.

    • Still stuck on slavery are you? You need a hobby, go outside once in a while, slavery is over buddy, it’s a new day yes it is. (to quote WWE’s Tag Team Stable The New Day)

  • Who do we think can lead us to safer times here in TNT?

    • The PEOPLE. who care, and have the Balls to get involve with problems, Ie, {Crime,} {Clean Cities},{unaccountably} Be bold change the format, re, Policing. then pick a Young team. Trinidad need DISCIPLINE ?—Remember, {You} the People have to care.

  • The new Commissioner should be a foreign law enforcement official willing to make the difficult choices such as ‘cleaning’ up the TTPS.
    This will never happen as the new commissioner may have already been chosen due to extreme political interference in the TTPS.The police service continues to behave as an arm of a certain political party and the process of selecting a new top cop can be contaminated.

  • Why dont the Government change the system. Its
    easy to say, But doing the same thing and looking for a different results, Never work. Westminster System dont always work for this Day and age. CRIME is everyone’s problem, Trinis dont seem to think that way. Example. BARS on their DOORS. BARS on their Windows, cannot walk safe Day/night. So selfish people, get involve, Report the Crime. There is a price to pay for everything. Be BOLD/BRAVE. iTS not only these men/women in uniform that have to solve Crime, Its YOU. Now, Why dont the Government Create CHIEFS, police chiefs—Port of Spain—-in SOUTH—ARIMA. Hold everyone accountable for their area. performance.Its Good, they keep their Job, Bad- get rid of them. use a time period. Report and POST THE PERFORMANCES. Then Have a service Board, as an over site body, Not just to gallery, but to be effective, and who speak to the public at large about concerns. Maybe its there already.—-It ent WORKING. {lOOK Trinidad AND Tobago. YOU LACK —discipline}

  • Spot on as always Mr. Cooper. Excellent overview.Seems everyone is in agreement ( Rare indeed ).For one who don’t like to partake in the racial overtones on this blog, i was really pleased with your closing statement. So true.From your posts one can clearly see that you have your hand on the Pulse of this land.

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