It might not have been a building, but it wasn't far from it. The theft of a massive HIV screening truck off the compound of the Port of Spain General Hospital raises issues of security beyond the humiliation of the effortless con. The brightly painted vehicle was found soon afterwards parked on a dead-end street in Diego Martin when residents contacted the police about the unusual presence of the massive vehicle.
The truck was taken, not at gunpoint, but with the help of a security officer on duty at dawn who helpfully retrieved the key for the vehicle after being presented with a forged North West Regional Health Authority identification card. Was this a one-man operation? That seems unlikely, given that an existing NWRHA ID had to be sourced and duplicated to pass the inspection of a security officer trained to recognise official identification. Or so the public is entitled to hope.
Nothing was stolen from the medical speciality truck and it remains unclear why it was taken, but the incident calls for improved security measures at the hospital. It also calls into question the effectiveness of the reminder by the Police Commissioner Gary Griffith for officers on duty to present their identification on request.
The ease with which a security officer was fooled into offering up the keys to an expensive hospital asset suggests a troubling criminal capacity to forge good copies of identification badges. Last week, Griffith told the officers under his charge that they must respond to a request by the public to show their official identification badge. This, the CoP said, was standard operating procedure, supported by the Police Standing Orders. Griffith was seeking to allay public concern over the arrest of two police officers in connection with their alleged involvement in the kidnapping of Natalie Pollonais. An increasingly sceptical public is also fully aware of the presence of convincingly fake policemen engaging in crime as well as rogue lawmen crossing the line into criminality themselves. In August, two men in a vehicle fitted with lights and sirens killed two men in La Puerta, Diego Martin. Six bandits wearing police tactical wear broke into a Wallerfield farmhouse in July and ransacked it.
Clearly there is a need for the TTPS to act more decisively to protect its reputation by more carefully accounting for its own resources, including its uniforms, and help the general public to be certain of the authenticity of the officers it deploys on the streets to protect and serve.