Believing in Erla

Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher - Lincoln Holder
Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher - Lincoln Holder

COMMISSIONER of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher’s call for the enlistment of divine forces in the fight against crime has, unsurprisingly, triggered mixed reactions.

At a meeting of the Greater Chaguanas Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Ms Harewood-Christopher said, “The police could come up with whatever strategy, but unless we enlist the help of God, we will be working in vain."

She added a telling caveat to the bold timeline she set out in February, in which she assured a reduction in crime could be evident by as early as June.

“I know people are a bit alarmed that I would even suggest that they can see some progress by June, but I know if we all do our part, with the help of God we can achieve it."

These comments led the UNC’s Chaguanas West MP Dinesh Rambally to say the top cop’s statements were "a grave insult to all citizens, especially the victims of crime."

Meanwhile, eminent criminologist and Newsday columnist Prof Ramesh Deosaran welcomed the remarks, given their context, saying the social origins of crime are complex, but there are limits to how far empirical factors can take us in explaining seemingly “evil” actions.

We agree with Prof Deosaran when it comes to the need for getting to grips with the context of criminal behaviour.

But, of course, the commissioner is both right and wrong to have formulated things the way she has.

It costs Ms Harewood-Christopher nothing to make a public appeal premised on a belief in God.

We are in the middle of Lent, the solemn Christian religious observance in the liturgical year commemorating the 40 days Jesus Christ spent fasting in the desert and enduring temptation by Satan, according to the Bible’s gospels.

Census data suggest that more than 90 per cent of the country believes in some divine order, with more than 60 per cent of the country being Christian. The top cop is actually tapping into faith systems that play a role in galvanising the community against crime and mobilising it to act against wrongdoing.

Where the commissioner may be wrong, however, is in using faith as a way to duck accountability for the failure of police strategies, strategies that stakeholders are correct to want to see.

Many may well believe what is stated in the Gospel according to John: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

Yet others, such as Mr Rambally, affirming he's a Hindu, are correct to remind us of the common refrain: “God helps those who help themselves.”

We need to have confidence that the police, as overwhelmed as they may be, have a vision and a plan that falls within the realm of human possibility. For us to have faith, we need realistic timelines and results.


"Believing in Erla"

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