great liberator from crime bondage
years after it led a militant movement of business people
and others, the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce is
making trouble again.
In the climactic October 2005 Death March protest,
the target was the governments handling of crime. One
standard held conspicuously aloft in that Port-of-Spain parade
was the chambers.
Chamber president Christian Mouttet was later removed as chairman
of State-controlled TSTT, and replaced by the PNM-reliable
Crime worsened; the governments handle on it slackened.
Voicing irritation about unexplained delay, the chamber last
week demanded to see the back of the Police Commissioner,
the also PNM-reliable Trevor Paul.
Already retired, Mr Paul has been limping along as a lame
duck, until the arrival of his successor. The chamber cannot
wait to see him finally become history:
decades-long lack of leadership in our law enforcement is
a key reason for this countrys degeneration into its
current state of lawlessness.
The new commissioner will have a lot more power to do a lot
more. If the next head of the police service turns out to
be PNM-reliable, it wont be because he or she was Mr
Mannings secret choice.
It is the House of Representatives that will approve the next
The T&T Chamber may bang the national table, but the rest
of us are still caught up in the procedural twists and turns
agreed in 2006 PNM-UNC negotiations to deny the Prime Minister
enjoyment of arbitrary choice.
For once, then, good reason (meeting demands of transparency)
can be adduced for the usual delay in getting things done.
About nine weeks ago, the PennState consultants began ranking
the applicants by merit. From the PennState top five, the
Police Service Commission will choose one name for submission
to the President and the Parliament.
The chamber people arent the only ones looking hopefully
to the new commissioner as to a great liberator from crime
and disorder. The police service itself is a priority battleground
against criminal behaviour, mismanagement, and loss of disciplined
Getting the police service to work is the most urgent and
influential first step toward restarting the engine of public
administration in general.
Reflecting on his four service decades, Winston Cooper sounded
sanguine last April only about the timing of his retirement
as deputy police commissioner.
works, he said, confirming public suspicions about the
administration he had left. Even the best input seems
not to work.
Mr Cooper should write confessional memoirs narrating causes
and effects of the moral death of the policeas an institutionthat
occurred on the evening of July 27, 1990.
For reminders, that was the occasion of the attempted coup,
whose signal moment was the firebombing and rout of the moral
and physical citadel Police Headquarters had represented.
The crime of the century took place. Police had neither useful
foreknowledge nor capacity for credible response.
Past that historic expiry date, something called the police
service has been maintained on the equivalent of medical life
Endless injections of money, applications of equipment, and
transfusions of consulting expertise, have produced the illusion
of vital signs.
Still, everybody could sense a lost cause when, to the already
hollow police motto, To protect and serve, were
added the desperate words with pride.
It is pride that has been notably lacking among officers who,
among other things, so disdain their uniform that they evidently
take every opportunity to avoid wearing it.
Uniform reform has been one clamorous need, amid piecemeal
adaptations and improvisations for various needs and assorted
Doctrine, discipline and methods of operating have been ignored
rather than upheld and updated, or they have remained fallow
Its unclear if the 1965 Judges Rules still apply.
Keeping records, starting with individual pocket diaries,
is notoriously shrugged off.
If he is to write at all about his experiences, Mr Cooper
will need to rely on his own personal records. Unless a chronicle
exists somewhere, documenting and analysing why, when they
had fewer vehicles, the police had employed a fleet manager,
a civilian functionary engaged to keep rolling stock on the
What became of the human resources manager, another non-uniformed
professional from the 1990s?
In January, National Security Minister Martin Joseph reported
that, of the approved strength of 7,691, only 6,051 police
bodies were available to be encased in grey and blue and the
While crime has remained rampant, the human resources work
of recruiting officers, to preserve numerical strength and
operational capacity against depletions, has demonstrably
Murders, mostly unsolved, reaching 200 before mid-2008, may
be taken popularly as the main measure in assessing government
But the response to crime is only one area in which the Governments
machinery appears not only to falter but often hardly to start.
The Government created the Special Anti-crime Unit as the
law-enforcement equivalent of a special-purpose company set
up to perform where the regular service machinery has failed.
Mr Manning has also justified the Government campus buildings
on the ground of meeting the need for better public service
is not, he said, that we like large projects or
we like to spend money. We are providing better office accommodation
so that our public service employees will work in some of
the best conditions.
In those buildings, they will need administrative creature
comforts, and the Central Tenders Board has advertised its
efforts to be proactive.
The board wrote asking permanent secretaries, heads of departments,
and top local government and statutory board executives to
finalise their 2009 requirements for office machines, appliances
For this relatively small and routine item of internal government
business, however, the director of contracts took a newspaper
advertisement. Was it fear of failure to communicate by paper
memo or e-mail?
The advertisement demanded responses not later than
May 15, 2008.
Alas, in a laughable defeat of the purpose, the advertisement
appeared not before the deadline but after it, on May 16.
Its not a crime, but its part of the reality any
hotshot new commissioner is up against.