Rid the ranks of rogues, Commissioner

By Raffique Shah
August 16, 2009


PoliceACTING 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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6 thoughts on “Rid the ranks of rogues, Commissioner”

  1. Corruption and criminal activity has plagued the police service for decades.One can refer to the Scott’s Drug Report for evidence where two renegade cartels were identified in the police service.The finding at the named police station is only the tip of the iceberg.The well-organized secret drug cartels are in charge of Trinidad,an island which is a major transhipment point for drugs destined to the consuming nations.The drug mafia has been able to succesfully bribe certain politicians and senior policemen with millions of dollars.Annually billions of dollars worth of drugs pass through Trinidad,a portion of the mafia’s profit is given to certain top politicians and senior policemen.This well orchestrated operation by the drug mafia has existed for many years.This system can be described as organized crime at its best,only international intervention by the FBI,DEA,ATF,CIA and other law enforcement and intelligence agencies can stop this operation.The local gangs control the domestic drug trade,a very small percentage of drugs stay in Trinidad for local consumption.Hi-tech semi-automatic guns accompany the incoming drugs and are used by local gangs. The whole island is infested with the criminal element,this problem may not go away soon.

  2. “James Philbert and his senior aides must be commended for their recent initiatives to clean up the Service.” This is idealism of the highest order, Uncle Shah. The likelihood of our Commissioner succeeding in his objective is tantamount to a chain smoker, miraculously trying to curb his full scale lung cancer, while still clutching on to his daily nicotine addictions, or better yet, a POS heart specialist attempting to save the life of an obese, critical heart attack patient, without also addressing the unwholesome, greasy, disgusting foods the patient consumes regularly.
    Call me cynical if you wish, but like numerous others, I am also of the strong belief that the Police Service is a mere reflection of the type of society we possess. Trinidadians should therefore no more be surprise of a Police Service that’s allegedly saturated with corrupt officials, than the dominant white majority racist Yankees society for example, by the fact that perhaps 5 out of 10 of their police also carry deeply ingrained racial, and discriminatory attitudes towards others that appears to be different to the original line of descendents of the folks that embarked from the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock centuries ago.
    Gutting the police Service as suggested, by sending many in jail is all well and dandy, but let us simultaneously put the screw on our greedy business elites, that indulge daily in shady profitable activities, are often in bed with their white color, closet criminal political pals, and together can benefit from the services of overpriced lawyers to tie up our legal system with stupid appeals as they pray for members of the British anachronistic Privy Council to continually save their hides, while digging a hole into the coffin of our Caribbean Appeal Court.
    I can assure you that the much bigger challenge for the Commissioner is to ensure that members are motivated to remain in a service so low in morale ,that for every 200 recruits that are trained per year, we can expect to see at least 100 resigning and or abandoning their jobs for a better, stress free, and interesting career options elsewhere on the globe where they assume that more appreciation would be forthcoming.
    I stand corrected.
    Warm Regards.

  3. I was surprised to hear that officers from the St Joseph station refused to be fingerprinted. I would have thought that all police officers would be routinely fingerprinted when they apply for the position.

    If one is criminally minded, being a policeman can give you an inside look at things you would not get otherwise. You would be a badjohn with a badge, and posibly a gun.

    For years, my brother-in-law and I, one of the few police officers with an advanced degree, drew scenarios to reform and change the service, but we realized that if change was not desired by the power structure, it would not come.
    the prompt transfer of the St.Joseph crew, says the chief police officer, acting or otherwise, is not play-acting,but using the power of his office.

    The PNM has the power to pass an immediate law to require that every existing officer from the CoP on down, be fingerprinted.
    Anyone refusing should be dismissed from the force. With the fingerprints, they should run a check on all guns used in crimes. If officers are renting out their guns, secretly selling siezed guns and so on, it will come to light.
    Then there is training. The program has to have more rigor, and those scoring a barely pass need to be sent exlsewhere.

    I have faith in our police service, but the ranks need cleaning up. Every policeman in my family knows that.

  4. “I was surprised to hear that officers from the St Joseph station refused to be fingerprinted. I would have thought that all police officers would be routinely fingerprinted when they apply for the position.”
    Interesting Ms. L, but the more important question is, were you, your highly educated reform minded brother –in –law, and the contemptuous “power structure,” you lamented about, equally surprised and or outraged when the Police Service were dismissed as mere encroaching panhandlers, when they tried to execute an arrest warrant at the home of the former Chief Justice Mr Shama for his corruption dealings a few months ago? http://www.caribbeannetnews.com/cgi-script/csArticles/articles/000001/000109.htm
    Do you feel as disgusted at other sectors of our Criminal Justice department, when a certain Chief Magistrate suddenly decides to behave as ‘if cat cut his tongue,’ and no longer give pertinent evidence when required, which resulted in him walking away with the help of white anachronistic Privy Council blokes ‘like a thief in the night,’ and bolster the disingenuous corrupt cry babies in staking their claims of racially bias – com – political prosecutions?
    Forget all the crap I just mentioned if you so desire , how about a nice one to sink your teeth into. Encourage the PNM and UNC power brass to not to only pass “an immediate law to require that every existing officer from the CoP on down, be fingerprinted,” but also to create a Commission of enquiry that would once and for all find out what took place in 1990 under Abu Baker , and who really benefited. It is only then we would know that you and similar alleged reform gurus, are really serious about police moral, and the overall state of law and order in our country, as a first prerequisite for social and political development. Should I hold my breath on this one?

  5. The Sharma situation, Neal, was extensively commented on by me at the time. I thought that the magistrate who gave phone authorization to cease and desist should have been dismissed. Go back to the event as reported here and check my comments.Some of us keep our brains sharp by trying to solve the nation’s problems, even when no one is listening. You may have noticed that my comments on problems usually incude a possible solution, a proposal for change. Bellyaching is not my style.

  6. Excellent Ms. L. I therefore stand corrected with respect to the issues mentioned.
    For the record, I too am appalled when ever I hear about disgusting/ reprehensible conducts that are committed by our Law enforcement, National Security officials, as well as every citizen with some semblance of power and position of trust. I therefore feel that none should be exempted from the harsh hands of the law where warranted.
    I am talking also about the Custom officer that is responsible for checking a container to ensure that guns and drugs are not sneaking in amongst the foreign used car parts. I am referring to the soldiers that selectively run roughshod over citizens in poor neighborhoods each time a member becomes a victim of some act. I want to see a bull’s eye on the forehead of our legal luminaries in and out of power that are daily displaying what can only be described as a crass ethical standards , and often criminal as several of the unmentionable noteworthy and politically sensitive cases have shown. The big Metropolis can idly boast about Justice, all the while pretending not to notice the uneven playing field that prevails be it, class or race. It’s idealist to the extreme, but we should do everything feasible prevent similar developments.
    Let’s continue to keep them honest shall we. There is too much at stake for us to do otherwise.

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