PM: Government still considering Tobago police force

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

In this file photo, police cordon off the road in Mt St George, Tobago where the body of a woman was found off a precipice on May 4. –

THE Prime Minister has repeated that government is giving consideration to a request from the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary for the creation of a municipal type police force under the assembly to help deal with crime in Tobago.

While other efforts are under way to address crime in Tobago, Dr Rowley said he will not engage in suggestions by the UNC that he politicise those efforts in any way.

Rowley spoke in the House of Representatives on June 14 in response to a question from Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh.

He said if Indarsingh had been paying attention to public business, it would have been clear he had previously addressed the issue of a police force operating under the THA, similar to those in the 14 local government corporations in Trinidad.

At a Conversations with the Prime Minister forum in Scarborough last month, Rowley said Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, has been asked to look into Tobago’s ability to have its own police service.

He said 15 years ago, a draft bill was sent to the Cabinet, but on examination, it required a series of amendments to several clauses. He said it became too complex and did not get past the Cabinet at that time.

He said Government was looking at the Municipal Corporations Act to see whether similar legislation could be enacted in Tobago.

“I’ve asked the Attorney General to look at that and hopefully, in the not too distant future, we’ll get some answers and we’ll see a pathway towards Tobago having a second level of police officers in communities.”

After Indarsingh asked Rowley for a commitment that he would meet with Augustine to discuss crime in Tobago, Rowley said he is not in the business of politicising crime.

He added that his responsibilities included leading a Cabinet and the ministers in that Cabinet, who each have specific responsibilities.

Rowley said the police, representatives of other national-security agencies and the National Security Ministry held discussions with THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine last month about fighting crime in Tobago.

Rowley, who is National Security Council (NSC) chairman, said those discussions included Tobago’s borders and the prevalence of firearms on the island.

He said additional law-enforcement officers’ boots on the ground were determined to be the initial response to the upsurge of violent crime in Tobago.

Meetings, Rowley continued, were held with the Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce on several initiatives to fight crime.

“The police have since increased its visibility with patrols and exercises targeting drug blocks and priority offenders.”

Rowley said the police had adopted a zero-tolerance approach and their activities included searching for and seizing illegal firearms.

“So far, two illegal pistols have been recovered.”

On June 13, the police did walkabouts in several areas highlighted as crime hot spots in Tobago, such as Scarborough and Whim. Rowley said part of that activity was to increase public awareness of crime.

He said National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds had also met with Augustine to discuss ways to tackle crime in Tobago.