Trini-style CIA to replace anti-crime unit
By Curtis Williams
The Special Anti-Crime Unit is to be replaced by a local version of the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Highly-placed government officials said yesterday the plan would mean removing SAUTT from the Police Service and recruiting members with special intelligence-gathering skills.
Furthermore, they said, members would no longer be recruited from either the Police Service or the Defence Force.
The decision to create a Trini-style CIA was taken last week, they said, and Prime Minister Patrick Manning was expected to make a major statement on the matter when Parliament resumes next month.
The Government sources, who spoke to the Guardian on condition of anonymity, said that as a result of the decision to divorce the much-touted SAUTT from the Police Service, a legal team had already been put together to look into legislation to establish the new unit.
They said the legislation establishing the unit would be laid during the next parliamentary session.
One highly-placed official said: “The fact is that it has been two years since SAUTT has been established, and the time has come to take it to the next level.
“And what has been decided is that recruitment will not come from either the Police Service or the Defence Force, which at the moment comprise the bulk of the SAUTT officers.”
The official said Minister of National Security Martin Joseph had already signed off on the move.
When contacted yesterday, however, Joseph said he was not in a position to comment on the issue.
“These are matters of national security, and I will neither confirm nor deny it.
“What you can be assured of is that the Government is taking short- term and long-term measures which are in the interest of the security of this country.”
Inside sources told the Guardian moving SAUTT outside the Police Service would give the unit greater capacity to attract high-quality intelligence officers with various skills and educational backgrounds, similar to the ability of the CIA to attract highly-qualified members.
Further, they added, it would help remove the difficulty faced by the Government in attracting highly- qualified nationals to the security services, because of salary constraints.
SAUTT was first established two years ago when PM Manning announced it in his budget presentation as part of the Government’s plan to arrest spiralling crime levels.
The elite unit was established under Peter Joseph, who was elevated to the rank of brigadier.
Officers were hand-picked from within the Police Service, Defence Force and a few prisons officers.
They were to be part of the Police Service, with a major emphasis on intelligence-gathering. They were also given a $5,000 allowance as part of their package.
The unit’s legal status, however, has come under question. So, too, has its performance in arresting crime, despite the provision of several high-tech pieces of equipment.
Government sources, however, have called for patience on the matter.
They said the Government was also trying to solve a major management problem facing Brig Joseph.
“How can a unit function properly when over half of the unit does not report to the head of the unit. It’s like presiding over apples and oranges,” one source said.
Police in SAUTT do not report to Joseph.
The new CIA-type unit would report to the minister, the sources said.
"This is not to say Government will have control of the unit and use it like a mongoose gang, since safeguards will be put in place," the sources added.
In any case, they said, the Commissioner of Police reported to the Minister of National Security, as did the Commander of the Defence Force.
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