CoP promises safe Carnival

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Erla Christopher –

POLICE COMMISSIONER Erla Harewood-Christopher is assuring the public that the first full Carnival in three years and her first at the helm of the police will be a safe one.

Speaking at the police media briefing at the Police Administration Building on Thursday, the top cop said officers will be out in their numbers to ensure the safety of all in the coming days.

“I want to advise citizens and visitors alike, to enjoy all the festivities, all the celebrations, but in a responsible way. Your behaviour must be responsible.

“I implore you to obey the laws and the direction of the police officers on duty. They are here to ensure your safety and to ensure Carnival 2023 is an enjoyable one.”

Her assurance of a safe Carnival was echoed by Gold Commander ACP Collis Hazel who said the police would be supported by the Defence Force, Customs and other arms of the National Security agencies.

“We will be there, out and about on foot, mobile, aerial patrols, on the sea, motorbikes, drones. You just name it and we will have it to ensure our patrols for safety. Added with that, we have brought out all our officers from vacation leave and members of the Special Reserve Police. So we are ready.”

He reminded citizens that a ban on use of glass bottles for Carnival will be in effect. The ban, which was introduced by former Port of Spain Mayor Louis Lee Sing in 2011 and first enforced in 2020 means that only authorised vendors can be in possession of glass bottles.

All consumers must have their drinks poured into cups and other containers.

Breaching this law can result in a $1,000 fine. The ban is in effect wherever there are Carnival activities. ACP Winston Maharaj said the police would also be targeting priority offenders – those historically known for unlawful behaviour, particularly for Carnival. There will be the customary stop and search in and out of the capital as well as officers conducting field sobriety tests.

Hazel warned that drivers who breached traffic restrictions on Carnival Monday and Tuesday might see their vehicles wrecked. Those unfortunate enough to receive such treatment will be able to retrieve their vehicles from the Licensing Office, Wrightson Road.

Maharaj advised licensed gun holders to lodge their firearms and ammunition at the nearest police station before coming to “wine and jook.”

Asked about the safety of the firearms and ammunition given that 500 rounds of 9mm ammunition seized by police have gone missing and is now the subject of an investigation, Maharaj said that it was a matter of “common sense” to keep the gun and ammunition away from the partying.

He added that while there was no law preventing licensed gun owners from carrying their weapons, given the environment, he said it was wiser to err on the side of caution.

“I would suggest that you avoid going into an environment where a significant amount of alcohol is being consumed, a large number of persons gather, and the behaviour is one, for want of a better word, liberally expressive.

“You would want to avoid having a firearm in that kind of environment particularly if your intention as a person is to go have a good time. You can hardly see a firearm making a difference to you enjoying the merriment and revelry of Carnival.

Another safety concern raised by the Harewood-Christopher was her officers being spared from gyrating behinds attacking her officers.

“I would want to ask our masqueraders, particularly our scantily dressed ladies, to desist from dancing, wining, and gyrating on my officers. It is disrespectful and unwelcome.”

Asked what would be the issue if officers consented to the gyrating, Harewood-Christopher said: “I believe I lead a professional organisation and I doubt very much (its members) will consent or even return a wine.”

The Carnival regulations say: “A person shall not, sing or recite any lewd or offensive song; or indulge in behaviour or gestures which are immoral, lewd or offensive.”

At the beginning of the briefing, her first in her new role, the top cop thanked the Police Service Commission as well as the Government and Opposition for having faith in her to lead the police. She also took a few minutes to share her plans to improve the police, without going into detail.

“I intend to provide and improve policing services to our nation. What is important, and what I will try to do, is to provide a police service that is capable of achieving its mandates, is competent and able to manage all its challenges, all the urgent or recent challenges.

“An organisation that is agile, efficient and professional. And all this will be in keeping with our mission and in partnership with the citizens of T&T – a partnership that will ensure efficient, effective policing services through focused leadership and professional and consistently high standards of policing.

“There is no better time than now for us to work in partnership as we invite nationals from all over the world to enjoy our Carnival celebrations.”