Criminologists: ‘Don’t be unfair to Erla’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher – Photo by Angelo Marcelle

CRIMINOLOGISTS Darius Figuera and Kavita Chotak said it is unrealistic to expect Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher to make a significant reduction in crime after only one year in office.

In a statement on Sunday, Figuera said, “An assessment of the performance of the present CoP must be put in context rather than be driven by the hysteria of the politics of crime in TT, which is driven by the politics of race.”

Harewood-Christopher, he continued, inherited with her appointment a long-standing war within the illicit trades of TT driven by transnational organised crime business models in conflict-seeking hegemony.

“From 2017, rivers of blood flowed and continue to flow, which potently indicated the present inability of the TT national security apparatus to deal with this reality previously unknown in the history of TT.”

Figuera said this reality revealed the need for simultaneous, urgent reform of the national security apparatus to drag it into the 21st century.

He added this is specifically in the case of the police service.

Figuera said no CoP is capable of undertaking deep-seated police reform on his or her own.

“Police reform is the task of the elected politicians. To stridently attack the CoP calling for her removal is then using the TTPS (TT Police Service) as a political scapegoat, which will not mitigate the assault of transnational organised crime on the social order.”

On the news conference that the Prime Minister will host on Tuesday to deal with national security matters, Figuera hoped Dr Rowley would address the transnational organised crime reality in TT and how its assault on the country will be mitigated.

He said if this is done, it will start the real conversation needed to deal with crime and not continue a pattern of futile attacks and no meaningful solutions to address crime.

Criminologist Daurius Figuera –

At a news conference at Whitehall, St Clair on February 2, Rowley said, “We are now attracting elements of organised crime.”

He did not give any further details about this but said efforts are being made to prevent a bad situation from becoming worse.

He added his discussions with US government officials in Washington DC last week focused on this matter.

Rowley also said resources of the Federal Intelligence Bureau (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Department of Homeland Security have been made available to the government to help fight crime in TT.

In a separate statement, Chotak said, “Even though there are those who believe that a commissioner is fully responsible for the current state of the TTPS, I don’t know how realistic it ever was for us to expect that Mrs Christopher could have turned it around in just one year when its performance across all objectives had been steadily declining over the past eight years.”

She said it was not right to single out Harewood-Christopher as a failure when her performance is no worse than any of her immediate predecessors.

Chotak said to do so “is more of an indictment of the administration overseeing the TTPS than the individuals appointed to manage it.”

She referred to a newspaper article which suggests that Harewood-Christopher has been more successful in meeting the goals set out before her within the first year in office than those who came before her.

“The question is therefore repeated as to why Erla is being singled out and criticised for her performance when her predecessors did not attract this level of vitriolic scrutiny?”

Chotak argued the answer to that question could be based only on factors outside of the CoP’s office.

Should this be the case, she said, “Then really we need to look at our society to discover where the real problem might lie.”

Chotak cited the large number of young men who applied to join the police last month as an example of Harewood-Christopher’s performance.

She reflected on Harewood-Christopher’s appearance before the Parliament’s National Security joint select committee on January 31.

Chotak said it was interesting that while the male members of the JSC were critical of Harewood-Christopher’s performance, none pointed a finger “toward the government that has consistently starved the police of funding and resources necessary for actual progress to be made.”

She wondered if the same line of questioning would hold for the Prime Minister or National Security Minister if they were to appear before the committee.

Chotak said she waited to see whether, at his news conference on Tuesday, Rowley would “add his voice to the baritone chorus that has been formed to harmonise the tragedy of Erla Christopher.”