Opposition grills Hinds on police allocation: WHERE $$ FOR RECRUITS?

HELPING HAND: An officer adjusts the hat of a recruit during the TTPS Passing Out Parade at the Police Academy, St James Barracks on September 13.    - FILE PHOTO
HELPING HAND: An officer adjusts the hat of a recruit during the TTPS Passing Out Parade at the Police Academy, St James Barracks on September 13. - FILE PHOTO

WITH the police service set to triple recruits in fiscal 2024, the Opposition is dissatisfied that allocations for both training and the Police Academy have not also increased to accommodate this.

Its members expressed these concerns on Monday during a standing finance committee meeting in Parliament.

In the 2024 budget presentation, Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced that the usual annual intake of 300 recruits would increase to 1,000. This, he said, would be in efforts “to bring the service back to full strength.”

Overall, a total of $2,937,923,200 was allocated to the police service.

The 2024 draft estimate of expenditure lists an allocation of $1,360,000,000 for salaries and cost of living allowance – a $290,000,000 increase from fiscal 2023.

Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal asked if this was owing to outstanding backpay or if it was facilitating the increase in recruitment. National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds said the payment will be made to regular and special reserve police, as well as public servants.

Moonilal asked for clarification that the increase was not a “provision for increased manpower.”

Hinds replied, “We are not increasing the manpower...the establishment as such...

“What will happen in 2024 is that where typically, we recruit about 300 persons (sic) for the year, in light of the demands of the national community and the circumstances that burden us – crime and criminality – we have decided to put things in place in 2024 to recruit 1,000 persons rather than the 300 that would have been recruited and trained.”

He added that the resources to recruit more officers and pay them will be “found across the board.”

Hinds said Commissioner of Police (CoP) Erla Harewood-Christopher told him the police recently received additional uniforms “which would meet the needs of the service even in the context of the recruitment.

“Any additional expenditure that would flow from this, we would treat with it through the Ministry of Finance.”

Naparima MP Rodney Charles said the estimate for training for fiscal 2024 is $2.5 million – the same as 2023. Charles asked how this would work.

“Why did we not anticipate and add an additional figure?” Charles asked.

Hinds said the police have a “very healthy training plan” as it considers training to be “critical to the organisation’s success.”

He listed some training courses such as accident reconstruction, crime investigation, anti-kidnapping and human trafficking and gang investigations.

Charles later addressed the allocation for the Police Academy, which is the same as 2023 – $8.5 million.Reiterating he is concerned owing to recruits increasing, Charles said, “And we supposed to accept that!”

Hinds said he gave a “thorough explanation” earlier in line with “sound government policy.”

In the budget presentation, Imbert said officers would be trained at the Chaguaramas Convention Centre and, after school hours, at schools in the interim while the police academy is expanded.

Hinds said the academy only handles a “limited number of trainees” and reminded Charles that other facilities will be used.

“(I am) confident that the current arrangements will do it.”

If not, Hinds said, Imbert already gave his commitment to meet any financial shortcomings.

Charles went on to speak about municipal police, saying the government was struggling to even meet its promise of 1,400 municipal police.

“So if they are serious, they have to add to the 700, those who are yet to be recruited under the municipal arrangement.”

Hinds said Charles was speaking about a different topic than the one at hand, adding that he is “far more sanguine” on these topics than Charles. There was some commotion about police youth clubs as the Opposition refused to accept Hinds’ view that $1.5 million was enough for the country’s 133 clubs.

Hinds said it can “easily” assist all youth clubs.

“All things considered, it will do the business,” he said.

Deputy chairman of the committee Desmond Forde had to quiet members – or attempt to – more than five times, but the yelling continued. Hinds slammed Couva North MP Ravi Ratiram for quoting a newspaper article with one police officer in charge of a youth club saying more money is needed.

“I am suspecting that people are creating problems where they do not exist,” Hinds said.

“I (too) am quoting one police – the head of the police service, with no axe to grind, with no agenda, speaking neutrally and professionally...”

Chaguanas East MP Vandana Mohit asked for a breakdown of what the money given to youth clubs was used for in fiscal 2023.

Hinds said, “Time-wasting as it is, I will.”

This caused a stir yet again.

Mohit reminded Hinds that he said he would address issues at the Cunupia Police Youth Club but “nothing” or “not much” happened.

Hinds said, “I cannot associate myself with your suggestion that nothing has been done.

“The youth club exists?”

Mohit repeated: “Nothing has been done.”

Hinds retorted: “The youth club exists? Is it running?”

This caused several Opposition members to hurl insults at Hinds, as Mohit replied: “You are not speaking to your child.”

Forde asked if Mohit had any other questions, and she said her previous question still was not answered.

“The minister shouted at me. That is not an answer.”

Hinds did not step down, reiterating that he disagreed with the use of the word nothing, which led to Forde again having to quell the situation.

Opposition members called on Hinds to give attention to their respective constituency’s youth clubs, to which he obliged but also suggested writing a letter to Harewood-Christopher.

Opposition members also alerted Hinds that the vehicles designated to some police youth clubs are not functional/need fixing.


"Opposition grills Hinds on police allocation: WHERE $$ FOR RECRUITS?"

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