THE EDITOR: There is a lot of talk about new highways and the sea and air bridges these days. There is also plenty of talk, for a considerably long time, about the police and the community having to work together.
The incident last Tuesday in Princes Town where police officers were mobbed and prevented from carrying out their duties demonstrated again the sad state of affairs in police-community relations and the urgent need for a new type of bridge. Similarly, a few days ago, it was a riot-like situation developed in the Beetham Gardens between police and the community. And the list can go on making the point for this new bridge.
Both sides are to be blamed. Some members on one side (police) have done some terrible things in the past and still do today to the other side (communities). So, too, some community members/leaders have done harmful things to their fellow community members as well as the police and other protective arms of the State.
They both must understand that they need each other to deal with crime in the communities. But it is not as simple as that. There are communities where the criminal elements support resident (financially and otherwise) who will then protect them.
This is a very hard nut to crack. How do you convince people that the criminals who are supporting and protecting them are the bad guys and get them to make reports to the police and testify against them? This is not impossible task. It is where the serious work must be done — creating ingenious ways to get information, intelligence and evidence. It will include testimonies and technology.
There needs to be someone or some entity that can bridge that gap of mistrust between the community and the police. If left alone to settle, there will be no success. Who can do this job? The politician, religious leaders, academics, mediators?
We have seen the dismal attendance at many police town hall meetings. It means the public is not motivated enough to meet and discuss matters with the police. Is it that this bridge should be a more structured forum between various sectors in community and the police and facilitated by a trained mediation team?
Will people and groups feel more comfortable with this system? Or is there need for trained researchers to go out to the various communities, meet with the residents and provide feedback to the police? Further, will more technologically savvy types of communication, like social media, Skype etc, be more effective in soliciting the concerns and views of the public?
But then, there is likely to be much scepticism about what the police will do with the information. Some people will see it as a waste of time and money etc? The police will now have to demonstrate to the communities that they are indeed responsive to their needs. This is how public confidence in the Police Service will be built up gradually. The bridging approach might just work.