By Raffique Shah
August 16, 2009
ACTING Police Commissioner James Philbert and his senior aides must be commended for their recent initiatives to clean up the Service. The exposure of one or more corrupt officers at the St Joseph Station, their identities yet to be determined, is but the proverbial drop in the bucket. But at least it restores some public confidence in the police hierarchy.
The follow-up action-searches of other suspect stations-shows that the Commissioner is serious about stamping a new image of the Service. The cache of arms and drugs found at St Joseph reinforces a recent claim by one unnamed witness to a crime involving a policeman, that Mr Philbert should order ballistic tests of police weapons when crimes are committed.
That would be a huge, near-impossible exercise. But the fact that every corrupt cop, or criminal-in-uniform pretending to be police, knows he is a possible target for investigation, will make a dent in the crime wave that has the nation unsettled, to say the least.
I am not suggesting that most police officers are criminals, or vice versa. It is clear, though, that corruption in the ranks runs very deep, and this for far too long.
In fact, it has been a critical contribution to the rising tide of criminal activities, leaving hapless citizens trapped between “police and t’ief”, not knowing where to turn to when they are victims of crime. Until such time as we know we can trust the majority of police officers, we cannot reverse the crime tsunami.
Besides those who betray the trust of their seniors and colleagues sworn to protect and serve the people, there are the petty crooks in the ranks who must also be weeded out without compassion.
I can reel off of illicit activities that have become the norm. It includes policemen who are in league with wrecker operators, profiting from this lucrative operation to the extent that they probably make more money per month than the Commissioner does. In fact, Mr Philbert may want to review all such formal contracts, and look, too, at the wrecker operators most used by certain divisions or stations where there are no formal contracts.
It is also well established that certain rogue cops, in certain instances the entire staff at stations, have unwritten contracts with drug dealers and gang leaders. People in districts where these criminals operate with impunity can tell investigators what days or times these crooked elements drop in to collect “blood money”, most times using marked police vehicles. Such blatant disregard for the uniforms they wear and the oaths they take to uphold the law is unacceptable.
Like so many people, I move freely among the “grassroots”, and I hear things. For example, shortly after that little girl in Laventille met a gruesome death at the hands of unknown criminals, a friend of mine who lives in the heart of the district told me of a new “peace treaty” agreed to by the warring gangs. He said there was no police intervention, nor were the so-called “elders” involved. Apparently that murder tugged at the consciences of seemingly heartless criminals, and they decided to call halt to the carnage.
Only last week I heard Deputy Commissioner Reyes refer to the decline in the numbers of gang-related murders on “the Hill”. That confirmed what my friend had told me. If the police had had the intelligence I do, they would have learned of the “treaty” long before I did. I know I still enjoy the confidence and respect of many people of my generation and some younger than me. It’s something senior police officers should strive to achieve.
Last week, too, from the upper reaches of the now crime-ridden Diego Martin, I learned of a “Muslim” walking the streets with a shotgun, in full view of frightened residents. In broad daylight! I was told that “the brothers” gave him a sound beating for flaunting the weapon. That was one weapon on display. What of the arsenal that remains hidden, to be used to rob, to kill, or simply to intimidate?
For many months I’ve had word about what appears to be a rifle with laser sights on “the Hill”. “When you see the red light, run and hide,” several Laventille friends have told me. People are too scared to point to the area in which this obviously deadly weapon is cached.
Don’t the police know of this weapon? If they do, why have they not acted on flushing it out? Now we return to the involvement of rogue police officers in criminal activities.
Had the police commanded the respect and trust of good people in these crime-ridden districts, they would have long brought the crime-tide under control. Much of the bloodletting could have been prevented. But where trust does not exist, information will not flow. Until such time as good policemen rid their ranks of the rogues, there will be no let up on the crime front.
Don’t stop the house-clearing, Commissioner. Move with resolve. Put their backsides in jail. If you end up with half-a-Service, so be it. Better a good half than a rotten whole.
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