Criminologist: CoP should speak with PSC on ankle bracelets

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prof Ramesh Deosaran

FORMER Police Service Commission (PSC) chairman Prof Ramesh Deosaran advised Commissioner of Police (CoP) Erla Harewood-Christopher to speak with the commission if she has concerns over the use of electronic monitoring as a strategy for curbing crime.

In a pre-recorded address sent to the media on July 14, Harewood-Christopher revealed the police was considering monitoring devices as a potential tool to address the issue of repeat offenders.

“This state of affairs warrants the consideration of innovative and unprecedented legislative interventions to deal with firearm possession and violent crime.

“Perhaps it is time to consider outfitting persons granted bail for firearm possession and violent crime with an electronic monitoring device to assist the police in treating with the problem of repeat offenders.” In an e-mailed statement to Newsday on Monday, Deosaran said Harewood-Christopher should discuss the issue with the commission. Similarly, he believed she should also discuss the idea of “vetted police” with the PSC.

The Prime Minister spoke about such units at a PNM political meeting in San Fernando on Saturday. Dr Rowley raised the matter again on Sunday during a National Security Council meeting at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s.

Deosaran said, “The CoP is liable to be eventually examined by the PSC on the use and results of each proposal.”

He added that if and when both proposals were activated, “These two proposals could bear fruit in preventing serious crime as well as building professional integrity within the police service.”

On vetted police units, Deosaran said such units could not function on their own, especially with respect to investigations and prosecutions.

“It’s therefore a matter of scope and accountability.”

Deosaran said, while the intention of removing internal corruption from the police was good, “The operational methodology and accountability must be seriously considered.”

In a WhatsApp comment, attorney Martin George, a former PSC member, said he was uncertain whether Harewood-Christopher was speaking about further legislative support for electronic monitoring.

“We already have the legislation for the use of ankle bracelets, and ankle bracelets have already been used.”

George wondered if there was “some disconnect between the bosom and belly of the police service that is worrisome at least, and alarming at worst.”

He said the National Security Ministry should be aware of the situation.

“They ought to be able to indicate what is the position on ankle bracelets and how many have been applied, how many have not been applied.”

George said the police should also know.

“It does not inspire confidence. Nor does it augur well for anyone feeling that we are nearing the end of this crime wave.”

George said it appeared there was some miscommunication at the highest levels of the national security apparatus about critical issues to combat crime.

A senior criminal attorney, speaking on condition of anonymity, said electronic monitoring legislation had been on the law books for years. He also said it was wrong for National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds to say the police should know about the status of electronic monitoring, when a specific unit was created in the ministry to handle this.

The attorney said it was now a question of implemention.

“There are mechanisms which are already in place.”

The National Security Ministry’s website says the electronic monitoring unit (EMU) was established in the ministry.

Its purpose is to implement and maintain a system for electronic monitoring in accordance with Section 6 (1) and (2) of the Administration of Justice (Electronic Monitoring) Act No. 11 of 2012.

The ministry said the system “uses technology to monitor the movements of certain categories of offenders, on a continuous basis, via affixed ankle bracelets.”

The devices function using global positioning system (GPS).

The ministry said the system was intended to contribute to the overhaul of the penal system by introducing a new sentencing option as an alternative to incarceration, and as a condition of bail for certain charges, including domestic violence and sexual offences. Speaking in Parliament last April, Hinds said between April 28, 2021 and March 15, 2022, “36 people were fitted with electronic monitoring devices, with an additional two people being fitted on March 17 and March 21, for a total of 38.”

He added, “It should be noted that the fitting of electronic monitoring devices is dependent on people accessing bail.”

At a meeting with Parliament’s National Security Joint Select Committee in May, EMU deputy manager Lawrence Hinds said the unit acquired 300 devices between 2021 and 2023.

“We have now the capacity and the equipment to treat with that development moving forward.”