1 Mar 2018

That anti-gang bill

Both the Government, and the Opposition (when they were the government) are touting the Anti-Gang Bill as a panacea for the horrendous crime situation in Trinidad and Tobago. Aside from being a badly drafted piece of legislation, there is no evidence whatsoever that the Anti-Gang legislation worked in the past; therefore, there is little doubt that it will ever work in the future.

As an example, the State is now required to pay compensation to several persons who were detained under the previous Anti-Gang Act as can be seen in the following link to a Guardian newspaper article. (http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2018-03-01/state-settles-soe-lawsuits).

“During the SoE, which lasted from September to December 2011, hundreds of suspected gang leaders and members were rounded up by police and charged under the controversial Anti-Gang Act. All were eventually freed by the DPP’s Office because there was no evidence submitted by the police to support their detention.”

The Anti-Gang Bill, sunset clause or not, suffers from the same ills as every other piece of legislation in Trinidad and Tobago – to be effective, it must be enforced! For enforcement to take place, the Police Service needs to do a better job; a much, much better job. Evidence is required to ascertain proof beyond reasonable doubt, which the Police Service seems to be clueless about. From all appearances, it seems that the entire police force (from Commissioner to Constable) is of the belief that arresting people is sufficient proof that the job is done correctly.

I have often said that the Police Service suffers collectively from an intellectual, and best practice, approach to fighting crime. There may be individual officers at all levels will have the occasional shining moments, but for the most part, the organisation is bereft of motivation and capability. Sadly, this reflects the culture within and without the organisation, built up over decades. Not only is it virtually impossible to stamp out, it will continue to grab new recruits in its tentacles and corrupt them in the same manner – after all, their teachers have already been “institutionalised” to that particular culture. In plain language, it is impossible to teach old dogs new tricks.

I have little hope the crime situation, currently rising to intolerable levels, will actually be reined in over the next 20 years. Partly because the local police are incapable, partly because they refuse to learn modern and effective policing methods, partly because they do not want external and qualified leaders, partly because those on a managerial level are probably even more ineffective than appears to be – one very senior police officer even boasted about how high he rose in rank with only a school leaving certificate. With that attitude, one can only despair. There is a vast difference between rising up the ranks on merit and qualifications, versus rising through mediocrity and seniority.

All in all, citizens ought to be prepared for was to come. I have said it before, and I will say it again – plainly and boldly – that is only when senior politicians and their relatives are affected by violent crime, will their anger and distaste turn towards effective legislation and the political willpower to manage the Police Service better.