PM: Progress made on police vetted units

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley – File photo

THE Prime Minister says Trinidad and Tobago has benefitted from the Caricom crime symposium that it hosted last April.

One of those benefits includes progress towards the establishment of special vetted units in the police to combat organised crime.

Dr Rowley made those statements in response to a question from Chaguanas West MP Dinesh Rambally in the House of Representatives on April 19.

That symposium focused on crime being treated as a public health issue.

Since then, Rowley said, “We have been receiving much better co-operation from our international partners which include tracking and preventing the illegal importation of firearms, making it more difficult for persons to engage in that activity.”

He told MPs, “We have also been receiving information that is being acted upon to tackle transnational organised crime, in so far that they impact the borders of TT and the interests of TT.”

Improved intelligence and training are also being provided to the security forces from TT’s international partners as well.

Rowley said initiatives in the area included “steps to authorise and begin to operationalise vetted units in the TT Police Service to bring about better information-sharing with our international partners.” He provided no further details about it.

Rowley first spoke on the matter at a PNM political meeting in San Fernando and at a National Security Council (NSC) meeting at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s, last July.

At a news conference on February 2 at the Office of the Prime Minister at Whitehall, St Clair, Rowley said Government was working closely with the US in establishing special vetted units in the police service to fight organised crime. “We are now attracting elements of organised crime.”

That briefing was held after Rowley returned from a meeting with top US government officials in Washington, DC.

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

He said the discussions with US government officials also focused on establishing a gun crime intelligence unit to deal with illegal firearms entering TT, co-operation in the area of maritime security and a cyber-security bilateral committee to assist local authorities to deal with cyber-security threats.

Rowley told MPs that events arising out of the symposium had helped local law enforcement agencies better co-ordinate their response to national security matters.

Rambally asked Rowley, “How these initiatives have helped with the scourge of home invasions, robberies and other serious crimes?”

In response, Rowley said Rambally was trying to link what he just said to a specific issue or crime. He told Rambally, “Certainly you can’t be serious.”

Rowley said, “But with respect to our ability to respond to the criminal element, these developments between our government and governments that co-operate with us, friendly nations, we are in a much better position than we would have been if we had not done this (regional crime symposium).”

Government MPs thumped their desks as he added, “There is benefit being had and benefit to be had as a result of these developments.”

Rambally asked Rowley, “Are you satisfied with the present state of crime, given all of this co-operation that you (have) just spoken to?” Rowley replied, “I don’t think that anybody in Trinidad and Tobago could say that they are satisfied with our experience with crime and criminal conduct in the country.”

He added, ‘What I can say is that if these developments did not take place, it would be far worse.”

Rowley did not elaborate on that statement and was not asked to do so by any opposition MP.