In this file photo, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds speaks with Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Chrsitopher at an event last year. –
NATIONAL Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds said police officers are in the process of receiving back pay which was promised to them last year.
On this basis, he gave the assurance there would be no boycott by police officers over Carnival.
Hinds made these statements while responding to questions from Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal in the House of Representatives on Friday.
In his budget presentation in the House last September, Finance Minister Colm Imbert promised that public sector workers would receive back pay by Christmas. The police were included in this category of workers but the police union claimed over 3,000 officers were yet to be paid near the end of January.
Asked about the number of police officers who have received back pay, Hinds said, “Every police officer would have seen the supplementation of the finance staff in order to realise the goal of the back pay.”
Those people, he continued, worked long hours during the week and on weekends to ensure that officers received back pay.
Hinds said auditors were brought in from other government ministries to assist in this exercise.
“Of the 5,776 regular officers eligible for payment, 2,855 were paid. Another 252 (officers) were to be paid manually, almost imminently and by cheque. That will amount to 3,107 officers.”
With respect to special reserve police (SRP) officers, Hinds said, “Of the 3,350 eligible, 3,148 have been paid to date.”
He added that 167 SRPs have sick leave issues were are still to be classified before they are paid.
Referring to statements made by Police Social and Welfare Association (TTPSSWA) president ASP Gideon Dickson on this matter, Hinds said an unnamed senior police officer described Dickson’s comments as reckless and counter-productive.
Dickson said on January 25 that the stress caused by the non-payment of arrears could affect the police security operations for Carnival. in response, the CoP said additional resources have been assigned to assist in the processing of back pay for police officers.
Hinds said Dickson’s comments were not helpful at a time when the police service is “fighting to regain public trust, confidence, admiration and respect.”
He said he was aware of the claims of a police boycott of Carnival activities from his “listening and observations in the newspaper.
Based on advice he received from the Commissioner of Police (CoP) Erla Harewood-Christopher, Hinds said, “There is no planned sick-out (by police over Carnival).”
Hinds gave the assurance that “security for Carnival will not be compromised.”
He said certain units such as the Homicide Bureau and Special Branch will reinforce the activities of regular police officers during Carnival.
“Usually at Carnival time, they bring out all of the officers except those who can’t work because of sick leave and such matters.
Harewood-Christopher, Hinds continued, assured him that additional officers from units such as the Transit Police, Municipal Police and Praedial Larceny will also be providing security during the Carnival season.
He reminded MPs that TT Defence Force reserves were called out, so the regular members of the TTDF could support the police in security operations during Christmas and Carnival.
In a proclamation dated October 30, President Christine Kangaloo called out 100 reserve officers to serve for 123 days from October 30-February 29, 2024.
Kangaloo said the objective of this call-out is “to strengthen the TTDF capability towards the fulfilment of operational support to the police in the provision of a safe and secure environment during the pre-Christmas season to the 2024 Carnival period.”
The reserve officers will be under the command of the TTDF and have already been deployed to various army camps across TT.
These call-outs are not unusual and have occurred around the same time since 2001.
Last November, Hinds said, “The reserves will join their regular colleagues (in the TTDF) and the support to the civil power (police), as requested, mandated by the Cabinet and proclaimed by the President.”
Asked about the specific duties of the reserve offices, Hinds said they would assume routine duties carried out by their regular colleagues. This includes guard duty and other activities at the army camps where they will be based.
Hinds said this would allow the TTDF regulars to be involved in joint army/police patrols in different locations during the period identified in the President’s proclamation.
Hinds reiterated, “The security of the country for Carnival will never be compromised.”
As Government MPs thumped their desks, Moonilal told Hinds, “I know that nation can sleep safely with that assurance.”