On Friday, senior police officers told Newsday the Police Service was grinding slowly to a halt because funds expected from the state had been slow in coming. Police Commissioner Gary Griffith declined comment on the situation, but tangentially acknowledged the situation, saying that “…if and when funds are distributed to the police service, I will use those funds in an effective matter.”
Asked for comment on the situation, National Security Minister Stuart Young, Finance Minister Colm Imbert and Minister in the Ministry of Finance Allyson West did not respond to either calls or messages.
According to police sources, since the budget was read last year, only money for salaries have been released. Budget allocations intended to pay for the maintenance of vehicles and equipment, uniforms, training, medical vouchers or Griffith’s plan for non-lethal restraint tools, tasers and pepper spray have not been made available. Direct support services, such as wreckers and gas stations have begun to complain about not being paid for months and in another startling situation, there seems to be no money to buy food for the dogs and horses used in the canine and mounted branches of the service. Officers are said to be paying to feed some of these animals from their own pockets.
This news is beyond disturbing. In his 2019 budget presentation the Finance Minister emphasised the plan for “revamping, rebranding and expanding the K9 Unit,” promising greater use and prominence of these service animals in crime interdiction.
If the government cannot feed the dogs it has in its care right now, how does it propose to proceed with its even more expensive plans for the Police Service, which includes, among other high ticket items, the implementation of GPS systems, dashboard cameras, laptops and tablets for police vehicles, body cameras on patrol officers, a functional national fingerprint system and the computerisation of all police stations.
Those aspirations are starting to look like a particularly bold fantasy in the circumstances that concerned officers have outlined. At risk here are the basics: the fundamentals of crime prevention and the tools that officers depend on for their support and protection in the field.
It also raises even more alarming possibilities. Are bulletproof vests that are end-of-life and due to be rotated out of service still being used because there's no money to buy new gear? Are service animals in danger of illness or death because they aren’t being fed properly?
Beyond shaking public confidence, these unfortunate revelations also serve to embolden criminals who have already demonstrated that they are well funded and supported by long-term, considered planning in their efforts to stymie the efforts of local law enforcement.