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Total Policing Report, two years later

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Two and a half years after the Day of Total Policing on March 23, 2015, which effectively shut down productivity by bringing traffic to a halt in key areas across the country, affecting hundreds of thousands of workers, Police Complaints Authority chair David West has submitted a report with 21 recommendations to the acting Police Commissioner, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Police Service Commission.

While initial statements by some in the service seemed to suggest the roadblocks and exercises were done deliberately to negatively affect the country -borne out of officers’ angst over ongoing negotiations with the Chief Personnel Officer- the Police Social and Welfare Association attempted to distance itself from the claims. The PCA, however, wasn’t convinced. While the report stopped short of making a direct link, it did find the activities of the association leading up to and including the day of activities “cause for concern.”

Of the PCA’s 21 recommendations, only four have been made public. One of them is that the relationship between the association and Police Service be examined. Another is that consideration be given for criminal and or disciplinary action, against some officers based on their conduct surrounding the event. In May this year, the Parliament’s Joint Select Committee on National Security expressed concern that acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams had not disciplined anyone for the event. He indicated then he was awaiting the outcome of the PCA investigation.

Now that the PCA has delivered its detailed report, which no doubt would have identified persons responsible for this debacle, this newspaper awaits the outcome of pending action.

Association president Michael Seales says he too is monitoring what happens. There is no love lost between the association and West. They demanded his resignation after he called the TTPS a “gang” at an anti-corruption event organised by the British High Commission. Although he subsequently apologised, the relationship between the officers and PCA, charged with investigating complaints against officers, remains strained.

This country deserves direct answers about what really happened the day the country almost shut down. Two years after the incident, tax payers must be told who approved this action, on what basis, who will be held accountable, and what is going to put in place to ensure it never happens again. The “Day of Total Policing” whether it was a protest or not, was a dangerous move, successfully executed by men and women who took a pledge to protect and serve the people of this country.

At a time when the country is riddled with crime and the detection rate is abysmally low, greater accountability is demanded of those who have charge of these officers. If officers are indeed guilty of ill intent, this must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

The interesting thing to note is that on that day over 2 years ago, hundreds of officers from six divisions showed the country what they were capable of when working together to achieve a particular goal. If, as some said then, they were acting on the instructions of the police executive, then maybe that executive can give instructions again, this time to be more responsive to the needs of citizens desperately in need of protection.

As we search for a new commissioner, this newspaper hopes that March 23, 2015, will not just be a blot on the history of the police service, but will serve as a reminder of the power the police are indeed capable of collectively wielding, in the hopes that the executive and the Commissioner, can channel it in the right direction.


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