Police under fire

By Raffique Shah
October 26, 2015

Raffique ShahWith crime, especially murder, being the number one issue on the national agenda for more than two decades, the police cannot escape being targeted as the most blameworthy for the barrels of blood in which the nation is swirling.

In the most recent sensational case, the Tobago double-murder, the police have come under fire from just about every quarter, including the media and individuals in Britain, among them former UK High Commissioner Arthur Snell and the sole survivors of a string of similar gruesome attacks on the island, Peter and Murium Green.

Snell, who was outspoken when he was posted in Port of Spain, wrote: “There has been a spate of murders and attempted murders of foreigners in Tobago, not one of which has been detected.

“In my discussions with TTPS (T&T Police Service), I was shocked at the casual, leisurely manner with which these cases were handled, allowing them to run into the quicksand and the unsolved pile. Sadly, I can’t see any reason why this case will be any different.”

Now, that may be unfair to the police to the extent that many factors impact the degree of criminality in any country, and police intervention-investigations, arrests, charges and solid evidence-is just one aspect of the process.

But what Snell said is the truth, however unpalatable it may be.

The police adopt a attitude in their investigations that borders on nonchalance, causing families of victims to lose confidence in them, convinced that nothing will happen by way of arrests or prosecutions, unless it drops in their laps.

The detection rate, or if I may rephrase that, the arrests rate (since most arrests involve no scientific detection work), is abysmally low for all crimes, but especially so for murder.

The few murderers who are arrested and charged are those who are easily identifiable by their connections with the victims or the trail of evidence they leave behind. And even in such cases, the police often bungle the cases so the killers walk free.

Gone are the days when Inspector Leslie Slater would conduct meticulous investigations, putting together pieces of a puzzle that the very smart Dr Dalip Singh left strewn from St Clair to Otaheite when he murdered his German wife Inge back in April 1954.

With no computers back then, no CCTV cameras, no DNA science, no phone recordings, Slater built an iron-clad case that sent Singh to the gallows in June 1955, a mere fourteen months after the equally meticulously-planned murder.

Slater’s dogged investigations, which I read about when Lester Orie and I researched and wrote the Dalip Singh story for the Mirror back in the late 1980s or early 1990s, were so impressive, they should form textbook guidelines for today’s homicide investigators.

They leave me to wonder, and Arthur Snell to gripe, why, on a small island like Tobago, with a population of fewer than 50,000, some person or persons could savagely hack to death (or leave for dead in one case) four expatriate couples, all retirees who fell in love with the island, and escape without a trace.

Green, who lives to tell the tale, and who refuses to be silenced by the ugly scars left on his face, said recently, “Your police force is grossly negligent and have no policing skills at all!”

Snell, who will have interacted with the police during his tenure here as High Commissioner, and who I suspect has trained in intelligence and security, was shocked by their casual approach to crime solution, by how easily they allowed cases to lapse into “the quicksand and the unsolved pile”.

Now, look at it from this perspective: the above-quoted persons are now safely ensconced in the UK, far from the killing fields of Tobago and Trinidad.

You and I live here. Our children, grandchildren, families, friends, neighbours have our navel strings buried in this country. Ninety-nine percent of us will not migrate to colder, and maybe safer, climes.

For all its warts, in spite of the barrels of blood that soak into its soil every year, we love our country.

The Government votes $10 billion for national security, most of that for policing, we do not complain. They throw tens of millions behind armoured vehicles, hundreds of millions buying boats they say will secure our maritime. We accept their explanation without a murmur.

They top up the salaries of protective services’ personnel with $1,000 tax-free a month, something you and I will never get. We approve.

Well, for heaven’s sake (and I prefer an expletive, but my editor won’t allow it), man, shake a leg, nab a bandit, snare a killer, collar a high-class criminal, make us feel safer, do something to justify our money that is spent on you.

8 Responses to “Police under fire”


  • When the Police Service did not have the allure of enlightenment, racial pride and stature, it was a force that provided essential service of safety and peace of mind. It used to be an entity staffed mostly by Grenadians, Barbadians, Vincentians and small islanders. It used to be the kind of service that was of little attraction to the Trinidadian born, worse yet the Indian. They all saw it as unattractive and a commitment to servitude then. I am a product of that service too, so I know. Now, with the advent of technology, political and racial posturing it has become all too important. It used to be that the men from the islands mostly possessed elementary and some secondary education, yet they served with discipline, dignity and decorum. Most cases were solved or resolved. When it came to crime, the Police almost always found their men. As Policemen they served with professional discipline and a work ethic next to none.
    Some of these same men were my tutors at the Police Training Academy. These ‘expatriates’ policemen served with pride and commitment to the best of their ability. Names that comes readily to mind are people like Inspector Tobias, constable Omajaret and Spicemarshall. You call their names and they were known throughout the land. Now, with the sophistication of law enforcement, crime detection methodologies with guns and firearms, the Service has risen in stature where there are political infighting to determine who gets into the Police. The latter, I believe is the catalyst that has been used to create inefficiency, laziness and an overall weakness in the performance of Police work. I believe that in order for Police work to be objective and professional, the element of political and social engineering must be kept out of it’s recruiting formulas. The Police must be allowed to do their work irrespective of who holds the reins of power and political influence must not be brought to bear on their effectiveness. The Service has become a sad case in the way it carries out its functions. Imagine when the police finds marijuana on an ordinary suspect, it is called by its rightful name – marijuana, when it is found in the residence
    of a politician, it becomes a substance “looking like marijuana”.
    This to me is more political than practical as a function of the work they perform and can’t help but feel that the Police is no longer there to protect the small man but serves as the tool of the rich and powerful.

    • Careful, you are exposing your raw racial bias, even though you are trying to be implicit. When are you guys going to stop this ?
      What you are disguising in your comment is that the Police force has become lazy and efficient due to the engineering of Indian recruitment.
      I have never heard such raw sewage-like claptrap.
      The Police force is and has always been archaic, incompetent and poorly trained. This is not a new phenomenon. Any police force in the universe which is preoccupied with arresting and imprisoning marijuana users is in fact archaic and out of touch, as it flounders and flails around crime detection.

      • Are you trying to defend Kamla here? And as usual, you are always looking for racial bias against Indians. What a sick mind!

      • TMan, let’s play Rawan’s advocate (you) for a minute…If Kian has as you say “Raw, racial bias”…can you please for the sake of neutral readers (not i) how this distinguishes Kian form TMan, Mamoo, Stephen etc….??
        Or is is that TMan, Mamoo & others of their ilk have the RIGHT to “Raw,racial bias” but kian does not? How come?
        Shouldn’t all ethnic groups be allowed the same rights?…ooops i’m sorry i forgot that your belief is OPPOSED to equality & Equity…now i understand

        • It is possible to strongly advocate for one group without deriding and denigrating another. Your mission on the other hand, is to agitate, disrupt and repeat the same tired old thesis of caste mentality as an explanation for everything under the sun. Unfortunately you do it in a very vulgar, crass and belligerent manner, without considering the context in which you find yourself-T&T, a place where ethnic groups must successfully co-exist.
          You have every right to your opinions and I do agree with much of your revelations regarding the caste system, but why do you have to be so offensive.
          You also ignore the fact that T&T is not India, where many of your learned cultural and historical revelations are relevant. I do not believe that caste consciousness is an obsession of Indians in T&T. To make links with the political regime of the UNC with some sort of Hindutava universal conspiracy is really stretching it. If those links exist then I must be naïve and totally uninformed, because I am a Trini,first and foremost.

          • TMan, I would like you to explain the difference in this statement towards Alyssa, “It is possible to strongly advocate for one group without deriding and denigrating another. ” (made by you of course) and
            another in which you contradicted yourself by saying:….

            “And while you’re at it, brainstorm among yourselves some solutions to alleviate your people out of the doldrums of crime, poverty, unemployment and immorality.”………

            Are you really serious, or just trying to fool us of your sincerity?

  • Yesssss, kian, remember raffique shah’s article titled “Confessions Of Regiment’s first Indian Officer” he wrote it during panday’s reign specifically to address what he was informed was an attempt to indianize the regiment…of course he put it as “tinkering with the recruitment”…Shah revealed that his father , like most indian parents saw no ECONOMIC future in The Protective services & was a waste of a life….NOTE: nothing about civic duty or patriotism in their thinking…shah pointed out that there was no discrimination from africans, beef was offensive no hindus & pork to muslims…these were staple foods in the western armed forces (world) also he gave examples of indians who would sign up buy leave before the end because of grueling physical training or to open business!
    But that doesn’t matter doers it? Accusing africans of racism in the police is a machavellian excuse designed to shame africans into allowing an indian/hindu domination of the police force & army etc. To better help the unc take over the society by force.
    Since we’re on the topic….do you know what was done in the last 5 years? As soon as the queen came into power, remember nizam’s rant equated to too many africans in the police force, army etc…..Why was someone with that mindset put there?…..all of a sudden indian officers were ‘suing’ the state for promotions…remember?…it was all orchestrated to through legal assault, bypass the mechanisms’ in the service to place large numbers of hindus in Senior positions so that within the next 10 years only one group will be dominant in the hierarchy of the police etc….do your research!
    But Tman, mamoo & stephen want to shame you into not talking about it….’we’ must suffer the indignity & oppressive behaviour in silence! Remember when kamla joined sat on stage and told him to talk, talk! Don’t ever stop….don’t let anybody stop you…you speak for “us”…remember that? Who is ‘us’?? Us baptists?….If the level of dialogue is too heated…blame kamla, unc & its supporters

    • Alyssa, you recollection is right on the money. I am intimately knowledgeable about Rafique’s enlistment in the Armed Forces because I was a non-commissioned officer then.
      I held administrative positions which entitled me to be familiar with such matters. So, Raffique’s story is all too familiar and his account reflects the what we always know about the Armed Forces. You can’t go into battle with a comrade and when in the heat of battle be worrying about the race of your partner, could you? No. Race is always a factor when Indians are trying to catch up with the numbers of Africans whom they met in the services and really want their numbers increased. Race only became a factor when Panday and Kamla became Prime Ministers of the country and all of a sudden the forces had to increase the Indian population. If soldiers were dying the way those in the American Armed Forces, Israeli Armed Forces, Syrian Armed Forces, Cuban Armed Forces and even Jamaican Armed Forces
      experiences do you think for one moment that Panday and Kamla would have an interest in increasing the Indian population in the Services? The answer is a resounding NO.
      You are right Alyssa, their reasoning about the Armesd Forces has more to do with being ready for a RACIAL war than a battle of survival for Trinidad and Tobago. Having more of them ensures their survival and security. And that is the real argument. As you noted, you see TMan will always try to cherry pick my words to arrive at his favorite accusation – that I am a racist. Facts and history mean nothing to these people. Nationalism and Country means absolutely NOTHING TO THEM EITHER. GOD HELP US ALL IF EVER THEY WERE TO CONTROL EVERYTHING! The Forces were conceived and built on the assumption that one may eventually have to defend the country against aggression. If and when that time comes, the color and raise of the guy next to you means nothing nada! So, when politicians get into the act of trying to change history to suit only their own racial and ethnic prescriptions then we are not really talking about nationhood anymore. This is where we were just a little over a month ago. The scoops I got on General Ken Maharaj is that he is an OK guy. But you may remember that when his term ended, Kamla made it a point to state that she needs to have him there a longer because she had plans for him. Do you remember that? What are those plans? And why should an officer who reaches the age of retirement be allowed to remain? The reason for that is obviously myriad and historically sensible for the military traditions. In the military tradition is important, when politicians interfere with that you create indiscipline in the military. I am afraid that that is exactly what Kamla did. Command of the Armed Forces MUST flow in traditional fashion. The rank and file understand that. I know that there is uneasiness in the Defense Forces because of Kamla’s blatant racial intervention. We CANNOT run every department of state as though we are running a divali contest. We sometimes have to let tradition prevail and allow free flow of procedures to take place. If that does not happen then GOD help us all.

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