THE EDITOR: Following on from my last letter in which I laid out five tips that would immediately take a bite out of crime, here’s my 18-step plan to fix the Police Service:
1. Introduce rigorous enforcement of the TTPS by-laws and policies by supervisors and by the Police Service Commission.
2. All official/patrol vehicles must be piloted by two officers at all times.
3. All police officers must clearly identify themselves before interacting with any member of the public.
4. Introduce dashcams in all police vehicles.
5. Introduce bodycams for all officers in the field.
6. The footage accumulated in items 4 and 5 is to be administered by a body independent of the police and is answerable only to the Police Complaints Authority and a joint-select committee of Parliament.
7. Create and resource an internal affairs division of the TTPS that answers to the PCA.
8. Introduce stiffer penalties (three-four times harsher than those for regular civilians) for police officers who are found guilty of neglect of duty, abuse of office or any serious crime.
9. Create a professional branch (almost like an officers’ corps) of the TTPS to be filled by university graduates who will be specifically trained in forensics, detection and other specialty fields of police work. Recruits with degrees will undergo basic training and then be selected based on: a) completion of basic training; b) verification of their professional qualifications; c) the results of detailed psychological and psychometric testing; and d) a rigorous background check. These recruits will enter the force with the rank of investigator/detective or something more adequate.
10. Create an arm of the public service specifically to manage the administrative aspect of the TTPS. Trained officers should not be filing and typing (unless it cannot be avoided). Ideally, this aspect should be privatised but understandably such a move will be resisted.
11. Raise the recruitment standard (from the present bare minimum) and improve compensation so that it becomes a more attractive career option.
12. Introduce enhanced medical and accidental death insurance for all members of the service.
13. Introduce an internal scholarship scheme for the benefit of bright, young officers who wish to pursue related courses of study. All awardees must be bound to the TTPS for a minimum of ten years following graduation.
14. Without further delay, reintroduce the municipal police force – it can provide a useful check and balance for the regular police.
15. Make it mandatory for every police station to establish and administer a big brother programme in its neighbourhood.
16. Make it a serious offence for any officer to refuse to respond to a call for assistance or to not act to stop a crime, and adopt a zero-tolerance approach to all crime.
17. Fund a public awareness programme that educates the public as to how a properly functioning police force should act, and encourage the population to video record interactions with the police and to report anything that is deemed less than model behaviour.
18. Introduce a continuous education programme for all police officers so that they remain consistent and aware of the laws of TT. (Too often, officers appear to be clueless as to what laws, if any, are broken when citizens come to them seeking justice.)
So, Commissioner-designate Gary Griffith, the ball is now squarely in your court. Let’s all pitch in together and fix this.
GEORGE ELIAS, Cascade