By Raffique Shah
January 24, 2017
The spontaneous eruption of a community close to the Maracas-St Joseph Police Station last week, which was triggered by the gunning-down of two men of dubious repute almost on the doorstep of the station, illustrates how this society has drifted to the edge of anarchy.
According to news reports, one of the men had reported to the station at around 3.30 pm as required by the terms of his bail for gun-related charges. The other had accompanied him. Seconds after they exited the station, six gunmen attacked their vehicle killing them.
Upon hearing the gunfire, police from the station rushed to the scene in a marked vehicle. The gunmen fired at them, too. One policeman was injured and the assailants escaped in spite of a massive manhunt. All of the above occurred in “broad daylight”, as my crime reporter colleagues would write.
That night, residents of the community burned tyres, blocked the road, and painted graffiti on walls threatening to avenge his murder. War, they told reporters, was imminent. Up to the time of writing this, four days after the mayhem, no one has been arrested.
Now, this is not the first display of flagrant disregard, utter disrespect, for the police, and for law and order, since the society started sliding down the slippery slope of lawlessness many moons ago. But the time and place—broad daylight, outside a police station—signal that criminals intend to take their war to the police. I shall not be surprised if they mount attacks against the police, or if the police flee their posts if such should occur.
From what I discern, the criminals seem to have better intelligence (information) than the police, they appear to be more skilled in weaponry, better armed, and certainly more motivated.
In other words, we law-abiding citizens cannot rely on the police to protect and serve us, as I wrote a few weeks ago. While there are always a few good officers in the ranks, men and women who are well-trained, fit, brave, and who honour their oaths of office, they are too few to man the gates against the barbarians.
If we agree that the police are critical to reining in crime, that for a number of reasons they are ineffective—look at their woeful detection rates across the board, not just murders—and that the service needs to be purged and rebuilt to restore citizens’ confidence in it, then we must also agree that the Government’s approach to these challenges is all wrong.
The Prime Minister announced recently that he had appointed criminologist Ramesh Deosaran to head a committee that will conduct a manpower audit of the service. The committee includes several police officers, among them ASP Anand Ramesar, a long-standing leader of the representative association.
With the greatest respect to Dr Deosaran, whose CV puts him among the foremost criminologists in the world, what can he offer as options for change in the service now that he could not conceive of and implement when he was chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC) between 2011 and 2014?
The PSC wields authority that neither the PM nor the Minister of National Security has, since it is meant to be independent of politics. The manpower problems in the service—and here I mean not strength or deployment, but training, attitude, performance, work ethic—have been around for decades. As chairman of the PSC, Dr Deosaran met them, and when he resigned, he left them untouched.
What will he do differently now?
The Police Service needs to be purged of elements who have rendered it impotent in the fight against crime—the lazy, the corrupt, and most definitely the criminals in the ranks, the officers who own drug blocks, control gangs, and worse.
It takes immense courage and strong political will to do what is necessary. That might mean firing half the current officers. Does the PM have what it takes to rescue the country from rogue police officers and their criminal cohorts?
He should bear in mind that George Chambers tried and failed. It was Chambers who commissioned the (Garvin) Scott Enquiry that produced a damning report that implicated, among crooks and criminals, the then commissioner of police, Randolph Burroughs, and scores of other officers.
Only Burroughs was charged, and he won his case. Chambers ended up losing the 1986 election 3-33, and went into oblivion. Most of the officers named in the report remained in the service and were promoted.
Patrick Manning and Russell Huggins brought in Scotland Yard officers in another bid to purge the service. The local officers, seniors among them, hounded the “Yardies” out of the country, just to preserve their turfs.
That is why we are where we are today: too many corrupt officers who are part of the criminal enterprise that wreaks havoc across the beleaguered country.
Who has the balloons to be our dragon-slayer?