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Apply yourself to police work

By LAUREL V WILLIAMS Monday, April 6 2015

click on pic to zoom in
Pearl Alexandrine Bruce...
Pearl Alexandrine Bruce...

ONE of the first batch of women to enter the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, Pearl Alexandrine Bruce, now 84, has created history in many ways - from retiring at a senior rank to being the first female prosecutor at the San Fernando Magistrates’ Court to having a library named in her honour.

It has also been said she and her batch even inspired a popular song by a calypsonian decades ago. In a recent interview with Bruce, a retired Superintendent, at her home at Lower Hillside Street, San Fernando, she shared her experience in the service and even offered some tips to improve current and potential police officers.

“Some of them (police) do not pay enough attention to what they should be doing. Some of them need to spend more time on the job and give of themselves. So many of us refuse to give of ourselves. It is important that they apply themselves to the job, to the work set down before them and share what they have with others. So very often we keep what we have to ourselves and do not pass it on,” Bruce said.

As a child, Bruce attended the Elswick Canadian Mission School now known as Elswick Presbyterian School, at Tableland, where she received a sound Christian education. She added that while at this school she partook in the Hindi instructions and learnt some bhajans (Hindu devotional songs) in the process.

After attending primary school, Bruce attended several other schools. Bruce, who was never married nor has any biological children, became a clerical officer at the Victoria County Council in Princes Town and the registrar of births and death at Tableland. She reminisced that although she held those positions, she was “burning with desire” to become a policewoman.

“I never wanted to become anything else. I kept behind them (authorities) all the time until they decided that they have to select women police. I grew up in a police station. My father - Charles Anthony Bruce - was one of TT’s first black (person of African descent) inspectors. They (colonial authorities) used to bring officers from abroad to hold that post. So, my father made history,” Bruce added.

Based on the TTPS’ official website (http://ttps.gov.tt/), it stated that by 1955, the need for policewomen to deal with juveniles and female offenders had long been overdue. Under Ordinance No. 6 of 195, 12 members of the “fairer sex” were drafted into the Force.

While being a female police back in 1955 was a historical development for the country, being a male police in the Bruce family was nothing new. Bruce noted that both her grandfathers were police officers and at present she has many relatives in the service.

After five months of training at the Police Barracks at St James, Bruce, in 1955, and the other women joined the service. “While in training they (authorities) decided that they were not going to give us time off to attend church. We marched to commissioner’s office and immediately an order was made and leave was granted,” Bruce noted.

She added: “One of 12 females ducked out shortly before the passing out parade saying she could not accept their methods of things. She is now deceased. Not long after, another one ducked out. The male officers were not easier at all on me because I was a female. In fact, they used to call on me a lot to help them. I felt happy to know I was able to mix with them.” This year marks the 60th year of females in the police service. Bruce having been stationed at several divisions throughout the island, became the first police- woman to prosecute in the Juvenile Court and the Inquest Court at the San Fernando Magistrates’ Court. During her tenure, she also visited various schools and gave lectures to students in addition to doing road crossings.

As a prosecutor, Bruce took the initiative to house several of the children, who at the time were at the centre of court cases, at her home.

“I never had a child biologically, but I had about 13 children... I opened up my home and took in children until I would get somewhere for them to stay,” Bruce recalled. She retired in the mid-80s, but remained active with former colleagues saying that she did “policing work more than some police”.

In 1992, Bruce received a national award medal of merit (gold) for Public Service. In honour of her contributions to the TTPS, the library at the San Fernando Police Station is named “The Pearl Bruce Library.”

Commenting on the current crime rates, Bruce said:

“I think more could be done seeing that officers are trained. There is need for more training among the young people especially those who want to enter the service.” The drug problem was here when I entered the service, Bruce charged.

On the issue of gangs, Bruce placed the blame on parents and guardians saying they ought to train their children properly and spend time showing them the right thing.

In recognition of women into the police service, the late humourous calypsonian The Mighty Spoiler (Theophilus Phillip) sang the acclaimed “Women Police”. In that song he sang, “They shoulda have woman police in Trinidad, Bet your life, Spoiler would be more than glad,

I only waiting ‘til one keeping duty, I running right away and I kissing she, And when she snatch on to me, I wouldn’t say a word, But I hugging up my police going down the road.”

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