Tuesday 26th July, 2005


Units merged in Police Service restructuring

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By Denyse Renne

Several units within the T&T Police Service are to be merged and their officers transferred, as part of US criminologist Prof Stephen Mastrofski’s recommendations to transform the police service.

Senior policemen, however, are denying the move is part of Mastrofski’s recommendations, and are crediting the plan to Commissioner of Police Trevor Paul.

The first branches of the service to merge would be the Firearms Interdiction Unit (FIU) and the Organised Crime and Narcotics Unit , sources said.

The merged entity is expected to be called the Organised Crime, Narcotics and Firearms Unit.

The move is being taken because the jurisdiction of the units often overlapped.

Sources said heads of FIU, Paul and ACPs James Philbert and Gilbert Reyes, met at 10 am yesterday at Police Administration Headquarters, Sackville Street, Port-of-Spain.

There, officers were told of their reassignment to the restructured organised crime unit. Some were also to be transferred to the Anti-Kidnapping Squad and CID.

Fifty-two FIU personnel would be affected by the changes which take effect from August 8. They were given the required 14 days' notice.

Sources also said the E-999 and Inter-Agency Task Force were also being looked at, since both these units operated like the Highway Patrol and Guard and Emergency Branch, respectively.

Reyes dismissed claims that the FIU had been shut down or disbanded.

“No, that is not true. FIU is too important to be shut down. What was done was a restructuring exercise and a merger,” Reyes said.

Confirming that the FIU was now merged with the OCNU, Reyes said it was a decision taken by the police executive.

“The executive looked at crime in the country and a decision was taken.”

He said as time passed, the police administration would look at other units.

As for the seniors, who once led the FIU unit, a source said, one of them was on pre-retirement leave, another on vacation, and the third had not yet been told where he would be placed.

Contacted yesterday, vice president of the Police and Social Welfare Association Noel Chase said the association was aware of the plans for FIU, and had on numerous occasions called for several units to be disbanded.

“We had looked at the state of manpower and resources in the police service and realised there is an overlapping of duty,” he said.

“FIU was one of those departments, since they and OCNU were doing the same things. Our main concern was the grouping of police into one unit and the weakening of another.”

A senior official said after the review of each unit’s operations, personnel would be placed “in a section where their skills will be utilised.

“We are doing things to develop our intelligence units. In the end they will be powerful tools which will provide powerful results.”

Duplication of tasks among units had been costly and a strain on manpower, another source said.

The source said whenever a new unit was implemented, personnel was recruited from other specialised units, causing a shortage of manpower.

The Government hired Mastrofski, who was once attached to the US Justice Department, for $5.7 million to formulate a transformation plan for the police.

Sources said the recommendation was made by Mastrofski, but senior officers insist the idea was Paul’s.

Minister of National Security Martin Joseph could not be contacted for comment, as his cellphones was switched off. Efforts to contact Paul were also unsuccessful.




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