We first noticed the problem of police corruption in the 1986 Scott Commission report on the influx of drugs and guns into TT. When retired Justice Garvin Scott presented his findings to then Prime Minister George Chambers, it was so damning, that Chambers chose to suppress the information. However, the report still led to the suspension of 51 police officers and the eventual resignation of then Commissioner of Police, Randolph Burroughs.
Then, in 1991, a report into the death of a police officer during an aborted drug operation at La Tinta Bay on Chacachacare led to the suspension of 16 police officers. This prompted allegations from Assistant Commissioner of Police, Rodwell Murray that there was a police-controlled “drug trafficking cartel”, which he publicly revealed to National Security Ministry officials in 1992. Murray’s seniority combined with the increasing scale of drug trafficking prompted Prime Minister Patrick Manning to invite the New Scotland Yard to investigate the allegations. Of course, corrupted senior police officers attempted to hinder the investigations, some of whom were reprimanded, even leading to the suspension of Superintendent Sagram Bhagwandeen. Without any real powers or local police assistance, the New Scotland Yard investigation was unable to affirm the existence of a “drug trafficking cartel”. However, it concluded that there was “a hard core of corrupt officers who would do anything to get money and one method is to provide protection for those engaged in the drug trade.”
The main recommendations coming out of this investigation were the creation of an independent Police Complaints Authority and the creation of five new senior positions in the service — one Deputy Commissioner and four Assistant Commissioners — to be filled with Scotland Yard officers. Naturally, this decision infuriated a large majority of the TTPS, resulting in demonstrations outside Parliament and the police headquarters, against what they called “the recolonization of the police force.” Dwayne Gibbs suffered a similar fate and was deemed incompetent, despite his best efforts.
So now that we know our history, let’s see where we’re going:
Bratton’s success with reducing crime in NYC comes from the use of technology, his “broken windows” policy and a racist Stop-Question-and-Frisk programme, of which I myself have been a victim. None of these techniques can work in TT because we are not equipped.
This post-colonial, inferiority complex that we subscribe to, in that foreigners know best, is our downfall.
The Director of Public Prosecutions and the Police Service Commission are the two agencies that we need to focus on, in regards to fixing this problem. The DPP can lay charges and the PSC can discipline corrupt officers. Also, while employed as a full-time law lecturer at COSTAATT, I was fortunate enough to lecture to some of the brightest and most passionate Criminal Justice students, who are committed to fixing the crime issue in TT, and I believe that’s where we need to start looking. Experience isn’t the best option in this case: it’s passion from these upcoming young citizens of our country who want to make a change.
Nevertheless, if we really insist on getting NYPD advice, I would suggest we use the words of a former NYC police commissioner, Patrick V. Murphy: “…the root causes of crime (are) poverty, unemployment, underemployment, racism, poor health care, bad housing, weak schools, mental illness, alcoholism, single-parent families, teenage pregnancy, and a society of selfishness and greed.” In Trinidad and Tobago, we must add “corruption” to this list.
We all know the adage: if at first you don’t succeed, try again; so I’m assuming that’s what our Minister of National Security is all about.
However, Albert Einstein told us that an example of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.