WITH the state of emergency (SoE) at an end and Christmas approaching, the police has called out its troops to address an expected crime increase and covid19 cases.
Speaking at the media conference on Thursday, ACP Erla Christopher, police operations manager, said officers on vacation would be called out for at least one month. She added that officers from administrative positions will also be called out to augment those on patrol.
“Our main focus continues to be the conducting of a variety of intelligence-led operations geared towards the reduction of crime and criminal activities.
"So we look at reducing violent crimes, suppression of criminal gangs, increase in firearm recoveries and assist in controlling the spread of the virus through the stringent enforcement of legal notices.”
She added that while many have been waiting to exhale with the lifting of the SoE, she advised that they do so in a controlled manner and not in a gust. She said the police will be engaging in high-visibility operations 24 hours a day.
National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds last weekend said police were bracing for an expected “exhaling” of the criminally minded.
Speaking during a radio programme Hinds said: “As human beings go, all human beings having been restricted for so long, though for good reason, are waiting to exhale. That of course include those who are criminally minded so we are in anticipation of that. We have been assured by the law enforcement platform in this country that in anticipation of that, action has been and is being taken in order to adequately prepare for such an eventuality.”
On Thursday, Christopher said, with the resumption of full service in restaurants and bars, the police were also anticipating an increase in cases of driving under the influence of alcohol and would increase testing throughout the country.
In order to meet the demand of increased patrols, Christopher said an administrative decision was made to call officers from vacation – those in specialist sections and some who performed administrative duties – to provide additional support.
Also at the briefing, DCP Mc Donald Jacob said the police hoped to call out over 200 officers. Those being called out from vacation will be constables and corporals only.
Asked about the call-out plan, president of the Police Service Social and Welfare Association Insp Gideon Dickson said the call for constables and corporals was in keeping with normal procedure during the Christmas period as those are the officers accustomed to “being on the ground.”
He said, while the association had no qualms with the call-out, there were other issues that needed to be addressed.
“There are issues regarding medical, issues regarding incremental backpay and outstanding salaries. These are things we are calling on them to address with alacrity because it impacts the morale of the officers.”
He added that some of the officers that were on vacation and being asked to come out were awaiting promotions that had been hampered and needed to be addressed. In spite of the officers’ many challenges, he said, they remained committed to the job.
Dickson expected full support from his colleagues.
“These officers have been jamming the ground since 2019 and they would have been forthcoming and now we are asking more of them. It is only so much more you can ask of the men and women who hold the frontline. Now is the ideal time to treat with those other issues.”
Regarding compensation, Jacob said the officers that had been called out from vacation would have an option to get time back or be paid. Those called out from various units will work an additional four hours whenever they are scheduled.
The officers will be called out from November 24 to December 24. So far 60 were called out from vacation and some 150 officers from specialised units which include the Community Police, Gender Based Unit, Crime and Problem Analysis Branch (CAPA), Human Resource, Fraud Squad and Finance Branch.
Jacob said the police hoped to get 100 vacationing officers to return to duty while Special Reserve Police (SRPs) would engage in additional tours.
“We'll be getting additional persons, we have around 48 officers who just came out from the academy and they will be ready to be deployed by the end of the month. And then there's another 56 who will be ready to be deployed by December 18.”
He added that the National Security Ministry was fully supporting the police in the exercise.
Asked about the acting positions of deputy commissioner of Police for Christopher and others and whether that was legal following a high court ruling last month, Jacob said there were no DCPs apart from himself and those who may have been identified as such had been misidentified and were just in charge of their particular section.
“These officers are operating as the head of the departments and they have to revert to assistant commissioner of police (ACP) until such time when everything is clarified,” he said adding that, while they will be operating as heads of the departments usually given to DCPs, they are not receiving the remuneration as deputies.
“We are patriots, we are doing what is required to ensure that Trinidad and Tobago is safe and we will not let simple matters affect us and our performance.”