An Erla-friendly chamber
Facing a 200-crowd of attentive business leaders at Longdenville Signature Hall, Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher declared: “An evil has spread over the land and we must recognise, those of you who are spiritually inclined, you must recognise that this is beyond the physical.”
She modestly added: “And unless we seek the intervention of that greater spirit, whatever we may call Him, God; 99 per cent of us believe in a higher spirit and we need to invoke the help of that being if we need to bring TT back to that place where we want to be.”
The event was held by the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce (CCIC), led by First Citizens’ bank manager Baldath Maharaj, and sponsored by Massy Stores.
The commissioner’s divine plea tickled some to ask: well then, what are the police really doing? Is she relying on heavenly powers alone? It doesn’t seem so, as she listed the number of police achievements and future “strategies” for Chaguanas and the entire ten police divisions across the country. She was also pleading for community support in achieving such objectives.
Commissioner Harewood-Christopher was not only warmly received, but the business audience promised material support.
The fact is, if democratic policing is to be really achieved, lawful citizens and civic institutions must play an active part. And the first step in such mutual assistance comes from willingly giving the police information and tips required for effective investigation, arrests and prosecution.
Such community-police integration may please the “higher spirit” in that the police are also helping themselves.
But it doesn’t end here. The people sitting next to me at this CCIC police-support function grumbled that citizens’ giving information, especially for serious crimes, sometimes has boomerang consequence in that the information is wickedly shared to alleged offenders. There is the fear of victimisation. Witnesses are also killed, the businessman warned.
Promising zero tolerance of police indiscipline and corruption, the CoP dutifully recognised this, and said: “We know we can’t get your support unless you trust us. I want citizens to know and feel secure that they can report.”
She added: “I know in Central Division for one, a number of officers have been arrested and charged for corruption, so we are not afraid and we will not stop arresting our own if it becomes necessary.” (Applause.)
I have several times publicly asked citizens to actively support the police, but I cannot do so responsibly when I know of the corruption and indiscipline among officers – relatively few as they might be. In my own presentation at this function, I drew attention to the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) report (2020/21). which stated that of the 437 complaints received, a whopping 84 per cent of them were closed.
Why, apart from the statute of limitations?
Does this also mean the complainants were left hanging?
The CoP must now investigate this to find out the extent to which it was because the police themselves did not provide the required information in time to the PCA.
In addition to forensics and technology-related tools, citizen information and witness support are vital for helping the police increase our very low detection rate. To press for urgent attention to this matter, I briefly pointed out: for the period 1990-2000, while reported murders amounted to 1,181, the average detection rate was 64 per cent. In contrast, for the 2010-2020 period, while reported murders zoomed up to 4,838, the average detection rate fell to 16 per cent. Among the severe public-safety dangers in such differences is the significant number of “non-detected” murderers left loose in the society.
So in addition to police work, the CoP is right in calling upon citizens for tangible information and support especially for murders. She said: “Notwithstanding the many daily successes, unless the public gets a reduction in the homicide rate, the public perception of crime, fear of crime and their assessment of the effectiveness of the police service will be negative.”
Logically, citizens’ fear of crime should energise them to help the police catch crooks and murderers.
But the police must also show they deserve such support.
While it is still early to judge her performance, so far the CoP seems on the right track.
The friendly business audience appreciated her apparent modesty and anti-crime promises.
"An Erla-friendly chamber"