Protective services must lead from the front

Mask-wearing soldiers and a policeman on patrol in San Fernando on June 29.  - PHOTO BY AYANNA KINSALE
Mask-wearing soldiers and a policeman on patrol in San Fernando on June 29. - PHOTO BY AYANNA KINSALE

The Defence Force and Police Service need to do more to encourage their officers to lead by example in respecting covid19 regulations and restrictions.

On Thursday night, a 41-year-old soldier was held for breaking curfew hours with a group of three others. The soldier was also charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Two weeks ago, a prisons officer and a woman police constable were arrested at 10.35 pm and 1.20 am respectively for breaching curfew hours. The WPC was also charged for using obscene language and resisting arrest.

These lapses in discipline come when tempers are frayed among the public too after months of limited movement and recreational restrictions.

When officers of the State falter, it sends a poor signal to the public about the need to be serious about health restrictions.

On Tuesday afternoon, when members of a Sangre Grande family went to the Valencia Police Station to settle a dispute, then got into a fight at the station, while the police were separating them, it was discovered one of the women was under a quarantine order after testing positive for covid19.

She was supposed to be in self-isolation at home, but instead exposed everyone involved in the squabble at the station to covid19.

On that occasion, the police acted appropriately after that discovery. Quarantine and station sanitising were quickly done.

On Friday, Industrial Court president Deborah Thomas-Felix insisted vaccination as a condition of employment cannot be introduced without consultation and dialogue.

A unilateral enforcement of such a policy is not supported by TT's Industrial Relations Act and represents a material change in the terms and conditions of employment.

Most of the complaints to the court between March 2020 and September 14 were related to covid19, some of which were presumably about attempts to enforce such changes without consultation.

The Industrial Court president called on the government, employers and trade unions to hold more meaningful discussions, consultations and social dialogue on these matters.

Meanwhile, 14 police officers have died from covid19, 73 have tested positive and 304 are in quarantine. In May, 2,473 officers were reported to be in quarantine. Ways must be found of increasing police vaccination numbers, now said to be an abysmal 45 per cent or so, with unimpressive rates also reported among prison officers and the Defence Force.

Getting the services up to speed will include more education and consultation with them about their personal safety and that of the public in a continuing pandemic. Knowledge will be their most effective protective gear against the threat of covid19.

Protective-service officers deal with people constantly during the course of their work, including people who may not know they are infected. It's only when they are confident in the safety measures that members of the protective services and other agents of the State can authoritatively encourage others to be safe.


"Protective services must lead from the front"

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