By Stephen Kangal
April 20, 2011
The Police Service is singularly the most unique and powerful institution of the state. The establishment of that service cannot be honestly and usefully compared with and justified by the ethnic composition of the establishment of any other public and private sector institution. At the same time the entry requirements for this service is academically minimal. Brawn was accorded overriding importance at the early stage of the then Police Force. Accordingly studying law, medicine or the professions was never an alternative to being a police man.
It is unique because it is the only institution empowered legitimately to use force/violence including the carrying in public view of powerful and lethal weaponry to undertake its requisite law enforcement action. No wonder some young policemen flaunt their unexpected and sudden empowerment to the detriment of the public. The police enjoy a great deal of discretionary judgment and latitude in the legitimate use of force in the course of its duties. The police may turn a blind eye on infractions of the law or may treat with ethnic communities differently.
Police have immediate access to vehicles (mobility), man police stations located nation- wide and are authorized with the right to use of force in effecting arrest and detention. It also exercises a judicial function in issuing on the spot hefty fines for traffic violations by the ticket system. From a civilian perspective it is the most powerful arm of the state and as such cannot be allowed to be monopolized by any one ethnic group in a multicultural society. The police with a search warrant can break down your door and invade the privacy of your castle called your home. The police (SIA and Special Branch) is known to spy on you illegally and listen in (maco) on your phone conversations depriving you of your constitutional right to privacy.
There must be a functional link between the police and the policed to ensure the effectiveness of the mission to protect and serve. Consequently the geographic catchment area for recruits should be as wide as possible to facilitate intelligence gathering and to act as a deterrent to potential law-breaking in every village. The ethnic factor plays a crucial role in developing confidence building measures in the police service especially in a society that is so extremely racially polarized, where geography corresponds with ethnicity and impulsive behavioral patterns of fight or flight are ethnicity generated or determined.
A democratic government in T&T cannot in fact rule without the approval of the Police Service that can potentially take up arms against a perceived sea of troubles.