Kamla tells Imbert: 'Pelting money' at police service won't solve crime

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar - Angelo Marcelle
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar - Angelo Marcelle

OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar wants the government to know that increasing the number of police officers in the country and "pelting money at problems" will not solve crime.

On Monday, Finance Minister Colm Imbert presented the 2024 budget in Parliament, in which he outlined some measures for national security.

From next year, the annual intake of recruits in the police service will triple – moving from 300 to 1,000.

To facilitate this, Imbert said there will be a "hybrid approach" to training recruits at facilities other than the Police Academy.

"The Ministry of Youth and National Service will make available the use of the Chaguaramas Convention Centre...on an interim basis for this purpose while the capacity of the Police Academy Building is being expanded.

"A number of schools will also be used after regular hours to train the additional police recruits."

He added that funding for additional trainers will also be provided.

An additional $80 million will go towards new vehicles and equipment for the police, and $15 million to create a riverine police unit at the Carenage Police Station.

Speaking at a post-budget press conference at the Red House, Persad-Bissessar said the current crime situation is a "nightmare" and a "horror" that happens every day.

This, she said, left her perplexed that in Imbert's four-hour-plus speech, he mentioned crime "late."

On the increase in recruits, she questioned how soon it could become a reality.

"When is that going to happen? How does it happen? You get them today and you hire them tomorrow? There's a whole process that has to be gone through, so don't expect any new boots on the ground any time soon."

She added that many of this country's police stations are "dilapidated" and "have no equipment.

"They can't even get paper to write up their reports on. Without getting disrespectful, they don't even have toilet paper.

"So you going to bring in people, but you not improving, and then pelt money, pelt more money. That is what this minister is doing. "More money for this, more money for that, but no new ideas.

"More money isn't going to solve the problem. You have to come with new solutions, new ideas, new proposals..."

In 2016 at the opening of the St Joseph Police Station, the Prime Minister boasted that TT's number per capita of policemen "is well above the international average."

But he added, "So it very well might not be a shortage of police officers on the job. So then what is the question?

"So it might well be what some police officers will tell you, not enough cars or not enough this or not enough that. But then you try to solve that, and it cannot be solved by us giving every policeman a car..."

What was needed, he said, was a "proper, comprehensive, across-the-board assessment of what is our police manpower and how are they deployed and how can they be redeployed under the current circumstances to get the best of that."

Opposition members, who surrounded Persad-Bissessar, suggested the government's memory may be failing.

On its website, the police service says there are over 6,500 officers in varying ranks.

Calling it a "painful budget," Persad-Bissessar said it was very deceptive and while some of it may sound good on paper, it may not necessarily be the case.

"We see repeats of the same issues. So the promises are made, they sound great and wonderful, and when you go backwards, you will see broken promises."

She said Imbert cherry-picked data and used percentages and statistics to make things sound good, comparing his speech to a book titled How to Lie with Statistics (by Darrell Huff).

Asked by Newsday if there was any part of the budget with which the Opposition was pleased, several members shouted: "The end!"

Persad-Bissessar then said she was happy the minimum wage would be increased, but $20.50 an hour was still not enough. Recently, she called for this to increase to $25.

She also said she was happy the issue of schoolbooks was being addressed, as the government will consult with stakeholders to attempt to standardise textbooks. However, she said, "That is not the way to go."

She said the only thing the government should do now is to leave office.

The Prime Minister did not host a press conference after the budget was read.


"Kamla tells Imbert: ‘Pelting money’ at police service won’t solve crime"

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