Perry Samuel's passion to protect and serve
OVER 30 years ago, Perry Samuel felt triggered by the events of the July 27, 1990 coup, as he sat in work at Lujo's in La Pique Plaza, San Fernando. Insurgents from the Jamaat al Muslimeen had stormed the Red House, Trinidad and Tobago Television and Radio Trinidad and held the government under siege for six days.
Samuel told Sunday Newsday he's always stood against violence of all kind, so he joined the TTPS and subsequently migrated to Canada to work at Peel Regional Police Service.
“I went to one of those secondary schools that really pushed students into civil service. So many of us went to police, fire, prisons, teaching. After secondary school I didn't think I was police material because back then it was more about brawn than anything else. You had to be a certain height, build. I always thought I was too short and skinny, so although I wanted to pursue it, I didn't because of that perception.”
For a few years, he sidelined the idea.
It took the tragedy and lingering effects of 1990 to plant a seed.
“When I saw what happened in my country, I felt so angry, so powerless.
"I hated that feeling. I wanted to do something to help. The destruction, loss of lives and the mayhem caused me to pursue policing at all cost. A couple years after the attempted coup, I joined the special reserve police.
“The service went around the country on a recruitment drive and trained hundreds of people on weekends. We were never given uniforms, sworn in or deployed. From there I applied for regular police starting in ‘94. I got to the last stage, but was cut.”
Following two unsuccessful attempts, Samuel almost gave up.
“I met one of my old instructors one night in St James. He persuaded me to go out for the recruitment drive the following morning. I'm glad he did, because the third time was the charm. I enlisted and passed out in 1996, at the age of 25.”
He said he served with pride in the TTPS from July 1996-2002.
As a child Samuel’s imagination was always filled with fantasies about places he often read about. So when he visited Toronto and learnt of the opportunities in the protective service there through other TT nationals employed at the Toronto Police Service, without a clear plan, he packed up and migrated in 2001.
Looking back, 27 years later, he has no regrets. “It is what I was born to do. If I could go back, even knowing what I know about the state of policing today, I wouldn't want to do anything else.
Samuel, 52, now serves at the Peel Regional Police Service in the Recruiting Bureau.
Every time he sees an application from someone from TT, it takes him back to the emotions an uncertainty he had at the beginning of his journey.
“I tell every applicant that I hire that police officers serve the public and have authority because they, the public, allows us to. It’s an honour, a privilege, and a huge responsibility to be granted the authority to affect people's lives in the way that an officer can. It should never be taken lightly."
“Young or aspiring officers should remember that they too are members of the community. Policing culture is a strong one, and sometimes when the culture causes officers to buy into the "us against them" mentality as it pertains to the public, it is easy to forget that they too are part of the community. This can lead to unethical behaviour and misconduct.
“One of the other things I tell newly hired recruits, hold on to the person who applied to become a police officer for as long as they can. That person is the person we saw value in, who wants to do the job for the right reason, whose character gave them a seat at the table. That helps to keep you grounded and balanced and helps you to make ethical decisions when there are conflicting ethical choices. As the old police officers back home used to say, ‘once a police, twice a civilian.’
“This profession is not for everyone. Sometimes people try to enter policing because it's a good paying job with benefits. People like that struggle with enduring the pressures of the job. Like I intimated before, there has to be something that is intrinsic, something within you that draws you toward the basic principle of putting others before yourself. To want to help people on their worst day, to want to be a part of something bigger than yourself, and to not be afraid to face negativity on a constant basis while doing so. Having that innate motivation carries you through day to day, year to year, decade to decade.
Sunday Newsday first contacted Samuel after the police department featured him for Black History Month in February.
Samuel is a member of the Black Internal Support Network at his job. It is an internal support network geared toward acknowledging and supporting diversity within the service. For him policing requires a particular type of mentality.
Born and raised in south Trinidad, he spent most of his childhood in Marabella, and La Brea before moving to Diego Martin his early 20s. He credited TT’s culture growing up in the 70s and 80s for his work ethic, life skills, and the ability to persevere through adversity.
In the near future, he hopes to use his policing skills and experience to help contribute to crime fighting to TT.
“I do plan on spending more time in TT in the near future. I return quite often but usually only for brief periods. I plan to change that as I wind down my career.”
Over the coming years, Samuel said he’ll heavily focus on creating a leadership structure to offer more to the service.
The goal is to maintain a position to inspire and mentor young people. “No policing strategy will change anything until there is a shift in the mindset of the citizenry. Crime and lawlessness is everyone's business...I realise that there is where my passion lies. I won't be that far off from retirement at that point so I'll be paving the way for what comes next after policing.
“It's time to share what I know with young officers. I also want to continue to pursue academia as much as I can.”
"Perry Samuel’s passion to protect and serve"