Experts: NSC review might lower public support for police

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prof Ramesh Deosaran

CRIMINOLOGISTS Prof Ramesh Deosaran and Darius Figuera expressed reservations on Wednesday about a decision by the National Security Council (NSC) review of some of the police’s operations after the shooting incident at Courts Megastore in San Juan, on Sunday could have the unintended effect of damaging public support for the police.

A statement issued by the National Security Ministry on Tuesday said in the wake of the incident, the NSC will “initiate the conduct of an immediate review of the relevant laws, regulations, and practices, surrounding certain aspects of the operations of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS).”

The NSC, which is chaired by the Prime Minister, took this decision after an extra-ordinary meeting on Tuesday.

Apart from wanting a full, fair and swift investigation into the shooting, the ministry said the NSC took the decision to initiate the review. Two people were killed in that incident.

The council received the assurance from Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher of the police’s full co-operation with respect to the review.

Harewood-Christopher attended the NSC meeting.

In a statement, Deosaran said the review was a well-intentioned approach to dealing with the dangerous crime and murder situation,

He suggested that Dr Rowley should set a time line for the review to be done.

Deosaran said Rowley had little or no alternative to take the decision in order to showcase that the NSC and other related security agencies were responding quickly to the frightening daylight murders for unpredictable reasons at unpredictable places.

But he cautioned that “such regular quick-response options, however, have credibility challenges which dampen public support for the police.”

While the police need public support in the fight against crime, Deosaran said, “The police service itself must heal its wounds such as improving its recruitment and training policies, bringing in a police inspectorate and dealing swiftly and fairly with police corruption and indiscipline.”

Deosaran identified three areas which the police should immediately address to improve their ability to curb crime.

“The missing gaps calling for remedy are the buried human-resource deficits, police indiscipline and the very low detection rate.”

Deosaran acknowledged that many people found it scary to count the daily murder rate.

But he said, “It is more helpful to increase the disastrously low detection rate. The detection rate is a key indicator of police performance.”

Deosaran suggested it was critical for all intelligence units within the national security apparatus “to be interviewed with respect to their needs for operational effectiveness.”

He also said the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) should explain its performance with respect to helping improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the police.

In a separate statement, Figuera asked, “What is the purpose of this exercise of reviewing all the laws, regulations and practices of the TTPS?

He wondered if this was “the opening round of a concerted programme of police reform so badly needed in T&T?”

Figuera wondered if there was a political objective behind the review.

“Is it political spin to bolster political fortunes in light of a general election that is ever drawing closer? Is it an attempt to hold on to the TTPS as the agent of social control who has lost control of the social order whilst bolstering badly damaged political relevance to a social order inundated with rivers of blood since 2017?”

Figuera said no one had the answers to any of those questions.

He added that citizens “must wait and see the outcome of this exercise and determine if it has decreased the fear of predators we are plagued with whilst bolstering trust in the efficacy of the TTPS.”