ACP Collis Hazel’s appointment to lead two police divisions – the Tobago and Eastern divisions – in the fight against crime, has drawn mixed reactions from former Police Service Commission (PSC) chairmen Prof Ramesh Deosaran and Nizam Mohammed.
While they both agree Hazel is fully capable and equipped to lead strategic crime-fighting efforts; with crime on the rise, Deosaran feels each police division requires optimum focus to ensure efficient and effective law enforcement.
However, Mohammed said Hazel exhibits leadership skills that will make him more than capable of heading two divisions.
But Deosaran maintained that putting Hazel in charge of the crime-ridden Eastern Division raises a question about effective crime management.
He said, “The relatively small island of Tobago shows obvious signs of having an unfortunate and serious crime problem this year and Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher and Tobago police should now establish the required range of preventive and control measures. This means in this early stage, competent and experienced police leadership is necessary for Tobago.
“For such reasons, ACP Colin Hazel’s appointment is quite suitable. He has been a front-line community policing officer as well as in law enforcement for many years in Tobago. In fact, he has been awarded several times for his performance.
“ACP Hazel well knows Tobago’s social geography, the weak and vulnerable crime spots as well as who is who in Tobago.
However, Deosaran said Hazel should be left to lead and manage Tobago’s crime challenges alone, at least for now.
He added: “If we look at last year’s rate of some serious crimes, the urgency requires dedicated focus. Tobago had a total of 726 serious crimes last year with murders at 10, shootings at 30, sexual offences at 128, house break-ins at 111, general larceny and house at 186 and firearms possession at 30 – all with promises of an increase in 2023.
“If the ACP is to be accountable for Tobago crime, it is advisable to have him responsible for Tobago alone – at least for developing and implementing the required crime prevention and reduction programmes.”
Over the last four years –2019 to 2022 – Tobago has had 37 murders, according to data from TTPS. So far this year, Tobago police responded to four murders.
Though the island has been able to keep larceny of motor vehicles and kidnappings relatively low, it has been battling with sexual offences, break-ins and general larceny.
In 2019, police dealt with 804 offences; 730 in 2020; 722 in 2021; 726 in 2022 and 159 as of April 2023.
In a phone interview on Thursday, Mohammed told Newsday described the move as an operational strategy.
He said, “Given what the present situation is the commissioner is entitled to use her best judgment and I think she should be given an opportunity to prove herself and we should all hope for the best.
“I do not believe that because they are labelled as two separate divisions that could cause a problem. It’s a matter of how manpower is best utilised to carry out the work of the police service effectively.
“I don’t believe in the past we had any performance measurement based on that criterion of the combined division. But, as I say, I feel the commissioner should be given an opportunity to prove herself and I feel her decision is being made in the best interest of the efficacy of the operations of the police service.
“I know ACP Hazel is a vibrant hands-on senior police officer and I know that the commissioner has placed a lot of confidence in him and I expect that he would not let down the commissioner.”
The commissioner of police could not be reached for a comment.
Hazel told Newsday in an interview on April 16 that his main office will be based in Tobago.
He said, “I would see that what is required now is some focus to be placed on Eastern Division, which, in my humble view looking in from the cursory view of what is taking place, I think some assistance needs to be provided in terms of executive assistance to the eastern police division.
"As you're well aware that the Eastern Division is quite a peculiar division.
“While records have shown that there is a good solvency rate in terms of crime in the Eastern Division; particularly in terms of the narcotic trade and stuff like that. One has to look at the whole question of the issue of mining – sand mining that is taking place that is responsible for creating gang warfare. So that is an area that we have to pay close attention to and which I will be focusing on."