N Touch
Monday 24 September 2018
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Editorial

More than numbers

THE MUCH publicised police manpower audit which was completed last year is just one part of the picture when it comes to the question of improving the Police Service.

While its findings are pertinent, the temptation to formulate shallow quick-fix policies when it comes to improving our detection rate must be resisted.

According to the audit, there are over a thousand vacancies in key departments, with shortages in bureaus responsible for combatting homicide and the trade of illegal firearms and drugs. As such, people like acting Deputy Commissioner of Police Deodath Dulalchan are of the view that if recruitment of about 1,100 officers takes place, then there will be a dent in crime overall.

On Wednesday, Dulalchan noted that over 5,000 police officers have been deployed as part of the security arrangements in place for Carnival. But this level of policing, he said, is unsustainable in the long run without substantial increases in manpower.

These numbers are certainly relevant. If there are material shortages in key skills, then the service cannot be expected to functional at optimal levels.

But bolstering numbers will do little to increase the productivity of existing resources. In fact, it is likely that such a move will simply make things worse. It will be like throwing more water into a soup which is already thin.

Meanwhile, the police have to be commended for bringing the total number of reports of offences committed during Carnival down from 106 in 2013 to a mere 16 in 2017. Yet, again, the numbers are just one part of the picture. It is possible many incidents are left unreported. The dwindling reports could reflect increased frustration with the police and a kind of pessimistic fatalism on the part of citizens who no longer have confidence in the ability of officers to offer solutions of take effective action.

Which points to the deepest problem: lack of trust. Adding 1,100 new police officers will not solve the crime problem if people lack trust and confidence.

To truly make a dent in crime, the capacity to speedily conduct thorough and lawful investigatory processes must be shored up. And without a proper plan for reform — inclusive of the process by which a police commissioner is appointed — adding more personnel will simply add more cacophony to the noise.

The Police Service must stick to the goals outlined in its strategic plan. It must seek to reduce and detect crime through improving citizen-centred service. Existing assets must be strengthened, not diluted.

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