still out on Mastrofski role
country wants to trust in the governments assurances,
now coming in a flood, about progress in crime containment
and in law enforcement.
More accustomed to bad rather than good news, we now want
to believe a corner has been turned, and that investments
in crime-fighting are finally bearing fruit.
It has thus been heartening to learn of the five model police
stations National Security Minister Martin Joseph announced
last week for Arouca, Chaguanas, Morvant, San Fernando and
He did not make clear to what extent Policing for
the People, as he called it, entailing fully-staffed,
well-equipped, cutting-edge stations, remains yet another
plan painfully awaiting roll-out.
Certainly, he derives announcement value from the unveiling
of a project with such attractive components.
For its an ambitious initiative to change the
culture of the Police Service, orienting the organisation
toward delivery of services most valued by the public.
US professor Stephen Mastrofski, consulting change agent
in the T&T police transformation, will be
overseeing the project. The professor presumably brings
applicable academic knowledge of, if not also hands-on experience
in, how the US system of police precincts works.
He should be familiar with the values and operational procedures
of a mature and efficient system of law enforcement.
One outcome of such a system has just been reported from
New York city, where the atrocious killing of a bridegroom
in November 2006 has resulted in indictments of three police
officers in March 2007.
Exhaustive investigations of the incident and grand jury
hearings have produced actionable findings in an impressive
In the training he provides here, Prof Mastrofski should
use the New York episode as a case study of timely and effective
policing and law-enforcement procedures operating
to restore at least some public confidence.
He has been around long enough to grasp characteristics
of the traditional culture of T&T policing.
Still, so far so good, as Policing for the People looks,
at least in prospect. One hundred officers, with 20 vehicles,
plus support staff, are to be assigned to each of the five
Each station will have resources for helping victims cope
with the trauma of crime, and also for supporting witnesses.
The benchmarks for upgraded performance by officers in those
stations are also admirable. Accessibility to the public,
responsiveness, competence and reliability are listed among
the goals of change.
In addition, officers are to be coached in attentive public
relations toward a customer-service ethic.
For all these ideas and objectives to amount to more than
campaign marketing gimmickry, some hard issues have, however,
to be faced.
Mr Joseph announced creation of 287 police posts, without
saying where the officers to fill these posts will come
from. Just the day before, one predecessor, Joe Theodore,
noted that the Police Service was some 1,200 officers under
As is well known, no recruits are regularly passed
out to fill the vacancies steadily opened up by retirements
If the 500 officers for the five model stations are to be
taken from other stations or operations, the public can
hardly expect to be winners in such a zero-sum game.
Nor can the public be assured that this initiative is near
effective implementation. The minister said short-term upgrading
of facilities was underway and long-term needs were being
assessed, and that equipmentfrom guns and handcuffs,
through computers to furniturehad only been ordered.
Policing for the People, then, advertised in the name of
an American expert, is a work still in early stages of progress.
Prof Mastrofski will thus understand that the grand jury
of the T&T public is still out on the question of his
contribution to crime-fighting.