Newly appointed Divisional Commander of the Tobago Division of the TTPS, acting Senior Superintendent Jeffrey George is confident he can resolve issues of police misconduct on the island.
In an interview with Newsday Tobago last Monday, he declared:
“I can make a change in that area. Once people know that they will be held accountable, they will do the right things. They (officers) have been practising this bad habit over the years and getting away with it. We will stop this.
“I have emphasized to my officers that we should be clear that I have zero tolerance in police misconduct especially when it relates to police and the public. If someone from the public makes a report and the officer does not act on it, we will hold that officer accountable.
George said he will be using his past experience serving in the Police Complaints Unit to deal with corrupt officers.
“Once information is in our hands, an investigation will commence and that officer can be placed before the court. We are going to do what is necessary to ensure that police officers do what they have to do, what is expected of them, what they are paid to do without looking for benefits of any kind. I am trying to get my officers to follow something called procedural justice because when the police treat people fairly and give them the service expected, they are also given justice. I will be focusing to make sure professionalism is delivered,” he said.
George, who is originally from Tobago and has served at all police station across the island as well as various stations in Trinidad, and has also worked in the Community Policing unit as well as with the Police Complaints unit as Chairman of the South Police Disciplinary Tribunal, said his mission was balance proactive and reactive policing to reduce crime in Tobago. His approach, he said, would be to engage the public in the decision-making process.
“We will be focusing on our stations’ councils to allow members of the public to be a part of the decision-making and (say) how they would like to see the distribution of the services from the police. We would also engage members of the public to understand what is happening…” he said.
Noting that between 2006 and 2008, he was responsible for encouraging residents to attend police town meetings throughout Trinidad and Tobago by directly engaging them, going into schools, and collaborating with groups in the communities, George said the same approach would be used for Tobago.
“We did everything that would bridge the gap between the police and members of the community. We also worked with the hoteliers to establish the Tobago Protection committee to deal with the issues of crime in tourism back then,” he recalled.
George also spoke of plans for more police officers to conduct foot patrols around Tobago following complaints by residents of ‘negative engagements’ when officers were on mobile patrol.
“The people are apprehensive of the police, they look at us all as corrupt, lazy and a number of other things. In order to break that gap, we have a strategic plan to deliberately engage and build a relationship with the public. If we can achieve getting close to the public, we will achieve goal one which is to reduce the fear of crime.
“I want the public to feel comfortable approaching and talking to the police so that there can be an increased level of confidentiality, which is what I am here to accomplish,” he said.