Chief Secretary moves to establish THA police force

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Police crime-scene investigators examine the scene of the murder of Anthony Maynard in Plymouth, Tobago, as bystanders look on Wednesday night. – Visuals Style

A Tobago House of Assembly (THA) police force will be a major component of a Department of Public Safety which the assembly is in the process of establishing, to work alongside the TT Police Service to try and arrest the island’s worsening violent crime situation.

This was revealed by Chief Secretary Farley Augustine during a mcdia conference on Friday at the Division of Finance, Trade and the Economy’s conference room, Victor E Bruce Financial Complex in Scarborough.

He also revealed the assembly would be seeking to re-establish the Tobago Community Safety Programme as a means of bridging the gap between communities, the police and the assembly in the fight against crime.

Augustine’s press conference came on the heels of nine murders being committed in Tobago for this year so far, with the latest being on Wednesday night when Plymouth resident Anthony “Seeba” Maynard, 42, was shot dead while liming with friends. Three other men were also shot and seriously wounded.

Augustine said the Tobago Community Safety Programme would be re-established with the tag line: “When you are safe, I am safe.”

The programme, he said, will be reinstated by the Division of Community Development, Youth Development and Sport.

“The programme will see the mobilising, organising and empowering of communities to collectively and effectively participate in the promotion and management of safety and security.

“The establishing of a community services support secretariat in all community centres and multi-purpose facilities is another feature. The secretariats will operate daily providing technical and administrative support to members of the community and the village council.”

He said it would also serve as a point of contact between the THA and communities.

He noted that rebuilding trust and confidence pathways between communities and law-enforcement agents were critical to dealing proactively with gun violence and murders.

On the issue of the THA police unit, Augustine said the assembly would establish a Department of Public Safety in the Office of the Chief Secretary. Establishment of the department he said “is pretty advanced.”

“We have done the necessary feasibility work. We have done all the planning in terms of designing the structure and the infrastructure that would be related to the Department of Public Safety, and we are approaching the point where we are ready to roll out this department,” Augustine said.

Farley Augustine –

The department, he added, will amalgamate all units, agencies and departments of the assembly that deal with core public safety functions including the Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), game wardens, lifeguards and environmental police.

“The long-awaited THA police along with traffic wardens and litter wardens will constitute the new additions (to the department). I’m happy to note here that the legal review for establishment of the THA police has been completed and path is clear for its implementation.

“Given the current legal construct, where the THA has virtually no legal remit over national security on the island, my administration is unconditionally committed to working with our national law-enforcement agencies to effect whatever fixes are necessary to improving their functional and operational effectiveness and efficiency.”

He said, in this regard, he would continue to collaborative works with the office of the Commissioner of Police to ensure the operational presence for some of the key specialised units on the island.

On re-establishing of the Tobago Community Safety Programme, Augustine said the assembly would look at developing and operationalising co-created community safety plans designed and engineered on the unique risk profile of each community.

“Then we would be developing community safety rallies and events. These are public relations and public communication events that would ensure communities have an appreciation for how to remain safe and secure in this century.”

He added that the THA would also look at registering all unemployed people on the island with the aim of ascertaining their core skills, capabilities, and training option needs.

“While we are doing that, we are very much aware that the THA cannot employ everyone on the island. But research has shown that the co-relation between those who are employed and those involved in criminal activities might be smaller than we think.

“Notwithstanding, we will generate this database, we will provide the training option where the gaps exist and we will help young people get gainfully employed with the THA or with other agencies in the private sector or through entrepreneurship to ensure that they are productively engaged.”