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Saturday 23 June 2018
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Commentary

Hey, what’s happening here?

DEBBIE JACOB

WHAT IS going on with the St Joseph police and the Ministry of Community Development? With all the articles I have written about poor service in the police service and government ministries, I’m sure you’re expecting a blistering review once again of public service. But this police station and this government ministry are actually models of efficiency that deserve praise.

The St Joseph police have been surfacing in conversations I’ve had with people who have noted their caring and professional attitude. A few weeks ago, two women hailed their fast service and caring attitude when the police responded to their needs after a crime. The St Joseph police are in my good books because they impressed my daughter, Ijanaya, who has had her fair share of run-ins with the police.

Recently, Ijanaya was at someone’s house when she heard police sirens shortly after her car alarm went off. She ran outside in time to see the St Joseph police escorting a driver back to her car because they had seen him hit it. The driver denied the accident, and when the police pointed out proof (her car’s red paint on his vehicle) the man became abusive. The officers kept their calm and straightened out the situation so that both my daughter and the driver found a solution to the problem.

Police in that station appear to have good, sound leadership, which serves as a model for the officers. They even know how to answer the phone in a courteous and helpful manner, as I learned when I called the station to speak to a supervisor about writing this article. No one ever returned my call, but I still remain impressed with their attitude and service. Then there is the Ministry of Community Development. Most of the time going to a government ministry in this country is a painful experience because of rudeness and inefficiency. But this is not the case in the Ministry of Community Development.

When I decided to register the Wishing for Wings Foundation as an NGO, I registered under this ministry because I wanted the Port of Spain Prison to have access to the ministry’s skill-based programmes. The question was whether or not a prison could be considered a community.

Inmates in my CXC English class wrote to the ministry claiming they are a gated community. Miss Burton and Miss Noel read the letters and decided to accept us as a community. We have been treated with the dignity of any community in Trinidad and Tobago.

Miss Burton and Miss Noel guided me through the gruelling process of registering as an NGO. I am not the most organised or patient person when it comes to bureaucracy, but they supported me every step of the way, making the process as painless as possible.

If they were not in the office, I found, much to my amazement, that anyone there would help me with any information I needed. Employees delivered all my messages in a timely manner and Miss Burton and Miss Noel always returned my calls in a timely manner.

They attended every event I have had in the Port of Spain Prison, from the opening of the Sterling Stewart Port of Spain Prison Library built for the Wishing for Wings Foundation by Children’s Ark to the prison debates, and the opening of the PVC furniture-making class. They paid for the tutors for skill-based classes even when I could get no money for materials from the Ministry of National Security.

The Ministry of Community Development amazes me because, unlike all other government offices I have dealt with, they never lose any correspondence I send.

When I need a letter from them, I receive it promptly. They make me feel like I’m part of a team; even better, they make me feel like part of this country. I don’t expect excellent, courteous service from the public sector so I do not take their support for granted.

While I celebrate their efficiency, I wonder why other police stations and other government ministries can’t get their act together.

It would be easy to write off the bad experiences we have as something we suffer because of indolent public servants, but clearly not everyone is lazy and uncaring. For once, it feels good to write a column of praise. The St Joseph police and the Ministry of Community Development have made up for many of my bad experiences, and for that I am grateful.

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