Recognising the evolving role of the police in society, criminologist and mediator Dr Wendell Wallace says there are several shortfalls in the current structure of the police service and recommends a larger budget and increased manpower to overcome these challenges.
In his opening remarks at an online symposium on the role of the police, hosted by the Caribbean Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) on Wednesday, Wallace said the role of law enforcement has changed over the years from traditional policing to a more community-based approach.
He said officers are called on to act in non-conventional roles, including disciplining children and acting as advisers and said in order to meet the challenges of modern law enforcement, more human and technological resources should be made available.
"I believe there is a shortage of officers who are on the street and policing. We hardly see police officers in major cities on foot patrols.
"Another gap I see is limitations in the use of technology, especially when compared to police in other jurisdictions.
"There is also the gap in mobility, where there is an absence of a police marine unit. I know there was discussions over a new marine unit being launched, but I have not seen it in an official capacity."
He concluded, "What can be done in terms of a recommendation is maybe a larger budget for the police and perhaps have them work outside comfort zones, for instance with researchers to look at these difficulties."
Also part of the webinar was DCP Operations McDonald Jacob, who noted Wallace's concerns and suggestions, but said per capita Trinidad and Tobago has more police officers than other countries.
He said the police consisted of a variety of different units which carried out different duties, compared to other countries where the same responsibilities would fall under another branch of security.
"In the US, for instance, look at who does the guarding of their President – the Secret Service – while our local police carries out the same duty through our Special Branch.
"The TTPS is involved in several different aspects of policing which in other countries are being performed by other branches of security, so when one looks at the figures you can see that we may have too much officers."
Jacob also said the police were doing their best to incorporate technology in their work, particularly through bodycams, in the interest of transparency and accountability.