Warner to cops: Bring down crime or I’ll be your enemy
By Andre Bagoo Saturday, June 30 2012
“IF CRIME in this country does not go down, I shall be every policeman’s enemy!”
So declared a tough-talking Minister of National Security Jack Warner yesterday ahead of a planned meeting with Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs next Tuesday to discuss his ongoing concerns over Gibbs’ tenure at the helm of the Police Service.
Warner issued the warning at his first joint public engagement with Gibbs, the launch of a police public relations programme at the Brian Lara Promenade, Independence Square, Port-of-Spain and amid continued concerns over crime levels.
In an address, Warner also criticised the police for what he has deemed its lower visibility in recent years and made an appeal to Gibbs to re-introduce “community policing” across the country. He later told reporters he intends to unfold a “new crime plan” in two weeks, the first plank of which would involve “high visibility” for police officers. He said his job as National Security Minister involves him developing the Police Service.
Warner had this to say to the Gibbs, “Anything you can do to reduce crime in this country Commissioner, I shall be your friend. But if crime in this country does not go down I shall be every policeman’s enemy. At the end of the day this country holds all of us accountable. Crime in this country is not the remit of the police alone. Crime in this country is the remit of all of us. All of us have a part to play.”
Warner continued, “We shall take back our streets block by block, street by street. We have drawn a line in the sand and we say enough is enough.” As Gibbs sat in front of him under a tent alongside other police officials, Warner said, “I have told Police Commissioner Gibbs that every police officer must be a community police officer. Every single one.”Warner said nothing less than a reduction of crime will be acceptable and issued a call for community policing – involving a high presence of police officers on the streets – to return.
“I say to you today that this community policing and several other initiatives which, once I agree with them I will support fully, must help to bring murder down to the point where we must have a murder-free week, a murder-free fortnight, a murder-free month and then a murder-free year. Nothing less is acceptable. Nothing less because the country holds all of us accountable.”
The Minister continued, “All police officers have to behave in a way where they can regain the public’s trust once more; where they can help remove a country from being a country of fear and to bring back the good old days.”
Warner took the opportunity to defend his hands-on approach to the security portfolio and, in a clear indication that he intends to exert as much influence on the administration of police matters as he can, said his job as minister demands a reform of the Police Service. He harked back to his childhood days, when he was impressed by police bands and low levels of crime. He said he tried to become a police officer but was stopped by his mother, a school teacher, and ended up being a Special Reserve Police (SRP) officer in Chaguanas for four years. Ironically, he now holds a post which gives him responsibility for security.
“And now I ask myself where have we gone wrong? In fact I ask myself where have the police gone?” Warner remarked. “I ask myself this and I say to myself as Minister of National Security what goes around really comes around. Because I couldn’t become a policeman I rose. While I could not become a policeman, here I am in charge of all the police and protective services in the country. I can’t instruct the police but I could instruct the soldiers. And my role as a minister is to help develop the Police Service to what it has been in the old days when crime was at an all-time low.”
“Whatever is good in the past that worked well we must bring back,” Warner urged, in an apparent allusion to the possible re-introduction of a police “Flying Squad”. “If it worked well and there was some evil in it we must take the evil out but use what is good. Use what is good from the bad because it works. And if it works, it was good.”
Of the good old days, Warner gave a personal account of his childhood experiences growing up in Rio Claro.
“When the police band played the whole village came out to dance the meringue and foxtrot and all those dances which they don’t do now which they did in those days,” he said. He was impressed by the professionalism of the police and was inspired to become a police officer. “Because I saw it at the age of ten, I wanted to become a policeman. It tells you the effect of what a good image can do,” Warner, the former FIFA vice-president, said. Years later, harbouring his secret ambition, Warner said he attempted to enlist at the St James Barracks to become a trainee with his “small picoplat chest.” It was not to be.
“My mother heard I wanted to be a policeman. In those days the policemen came from Barbados and the force wasn’t attractive,” Warner said. “When I went in the line my mother hear. She left Longdenville with the parish priest, Father Max Murphy, came in the line took me out of the line and sent me straight to Mausica Teachers’ College. She said, ‘You have to teach.’ I spent two years in Mausica Teachers’ College.”
Warner later got several degrees and became a government scholar, tying him to teaching obligations at North Eastern College. But then he went on to become an SRP.
“It was the nearest thing to a policeman that I could become. I walked the streets with my colleagues,” he said. “Those were the days when we would help people to cross the street and make sure shops were locked.”
Warner urged Gibbs to extend the TTPS Community Caravan – a fair which promotes interest in the Police Service – to Princes Town, San Fernando, Felicity, Char-
lieville, Mayaro, Penal, Siparia, Charlotteville, Moriah and Debe.
Gibbs and Warner began to take a tour of the Promenade fair together but by the end the two had separated.