PM meets service chiefs, announces new police unit

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

HIGH-LEVEL TALKS: Prime Minsiter Dr Keith Rowley, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds and Energy Minister Stuart Young address security chiefs at a four-hour long meeting at Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, on Sunday. – Courtesy Office of the Prime Minister

THE Prime Minister  met with security chiefs on Sunday in a four-hour-long meeting at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s.

The public was alerted to the meeting by a post on Dr Rowley’s official Facebook page as well as that of the Office of the Prime Minister, just after 1 pm.

The post said he was chairing a high-profile meeting which included Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher, divisional commanders, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds and Energy Minister Stuart Young.

By 5 pm, the page was updated to include acting Chief of Defence Staff, Brig Gen Dexter Francis, the director of the SSA and the executive members of the police service. While not listed, the leaders of several police units were also present.

The second post said Rowley, in his capacity as head of the National Security Council, “convened a special NSC sub-committee.”

“The meeting featured reports from each of the divisional heads of the police who outlined the initiatives implemented in their region to address crime and criminality.

“The heads also provided information related to the specific issues affecting the communities within their divisions. The Commissioner of Police, acting Chief of Defence Staff, and the director of the SSA also provided reports to the National Security Council.”

Sunday’s meeting came the day after Dr Rowley, at a political meeting in San Fernando, called for what he described as vetted units in the police service to be staffed by officers who will be paid higher than their colleagues. They will be expected to weed out corrupt officers and tackling criminals in immigration, customs and politics.

“One of the problems that we have is that there are too many criminals in the police service. So when you’re going after the non-police criminals, they have their friends in the police service to tip them off,” he told the gathering at Harris Promenade on Saturday night.

Sunday’s special meeting also came after the commissioner, in a pre-recorded statement on crime, called on citizens to partner with the police.

Although she refused to speak with the media last week, Harewood-Christopher spoke of the murder toll, which has reached 300.

In February, she told a joint select committee of Parliament the country could expect to see a change in the murder rate “short-term by June and long-term by December.”

In her 16-minute video, the commissioner said the police service wanted ankle monitors for 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 with the problem of repeat offenders.”

The only offences exempted from ankle monitoring are murder and treason ,which were, at the time, non-bailable offences.

That changed in 2022, when the Appeal Court and the Privy Council established that anyone charged with murder could apply to the High Court for bail.

Hours after she said the police were doing all they could to tackle crime, on Saturday, the police service posted photos of Harewood-Christopher out with her officers holding traffic stops and interacting with the public in various crime districts.

In her pre-recorded statement, she said, “I stand resolutely with the over 10,000 men and women who I lead to confirm the challenges of the future to ensure a safer and more secure TT. We will persist in our work to get the results we desire, the results that the country is demanding of us. We will not relent and we will not fail.”