27 Aug 2010

Express Editorial–threats from the dunceys

Good sense eventually prevailed, but it was at least in bad taste for the Police Social and Welfare Association to threaten to boycott the Independence parade.

Following a three-hour meeting with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Wednesday, the proposed action was withdrawn. It is passing strange, however, that no comparable police-union militancy was ever shown against the former administration. Even when the Special Anti-Crime Unit of Trinidad and Tobago (SAUTT) was first set up under the Manning regime, grumbling was heard from the rank-and-file officers, who felt that resources and better pay were being given to their supposed peers. But dissatisfactions never resulted in similar threats.

The Association's change of heart doesn't change the fact that it was a poor occasion for the police to advertise a mutinous impulse that amounted to kicking a besieged nation in the face. The past two weeks in T&T have seen an orgy of murderous violence, only partially mitigated by successful police work leading to the arrests of suspects in some of these incidents.  To add insult to fatal injury, the Police Association's spokesmen asserted that these latest successes were the direct result of overtime duty which, they said, would be withdrawn unless their concerns were addressed. An unkind interpretation of this statement is that the police association considers overtime pay more important that protecting the lives of citizens.

Most citizens hold a justifiably low opinion of the Police Service. The Association should now be expending every effort to build on recent successes, not only to improve the Service's image, but also to become effective professionals rather than the lame ducks they have too long been. The quantum of the TT-dollar equivalent of pay for the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner recruited from Canada can hardly stand as an excuse to refuse to work overtime. To expect the new government instantly to upgrade police pay from its 2007 level is recklessly unreasonable.

Moreover, it is doubtful that the rank-and-file officers would accept any sort of proportionate pay increase, if that increase was contingent on their accepting a three-year contract containing a provision to fire any police officer for non-performance. In that context, officers who arrest persons without cause, who brutalise citizens, and who commit perjury when testifying would be summarily dismissed. And, if police salaries were indeed proportionate to the Commissioner's and the deputy Commissioner's, there would be a long line of replacements, probably better qualified, waiting to enter the Police Service.

The Association emerged from its meeting with the Prime Minister saying that their talk had resulted in a "win-win" situation. We hope this does not mean a win for the police and a win for the politicians—while citizens are left to fall under the criminals' wide-sweeping scythe.

Express Editorial

This is worthy of a reprint.