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Trinidad & Tobago: Who's Policing Us Now?

On Monday, July 30th, 2012, the Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago, the Honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced the resignations of the Commissioner of Police Dwayne Gibbs, and Deputy Commissioner Jack Ewatski:

“The Police Service Commission today July 30th 2012 received and noted letters of resignation dated 26th July 2012, from Commissioner of Police Dr. Dwayne Gibbs and Deputy Commissioner of Police Mr Jack Ewatski advising of their resignation from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service effective 7th August 2012. The Commission wishes to assure that the nation is committed to the process of managing the transition to ensure continuity and stability at the executive level of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.”

The statement also added that the government planned to enact some changes under the leadership of National Security Minister Jack Warner:

As head of the National Security Council, together with the other members of that council we have identified several major shifts in policy and programs as the government moves to arrest the issue of crime as our number one priority.

Gibbs and Ewatski, who are both originally from Canada, were appointed in 2010. Their tenure was marked by several controversies, including the police raid on a newspaper (and subsequent surveillance of a journalist), the arrest of a popular TV show host and a state of emergency.

At Plain Talk, Philip Edward Alexander felt that the manner in which the announcement was made caused confusion:

Take the alleged ‘resignations’ of Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs and his assistant Commissioner Jack Ewatski, this matter was handled in such a clumsy manner that the announcement ground the nation to a halt and threw up so many questions one has to wonder if this level of incompetence is in fact a deliberate ploy of some sort.

Alexander also questioned whether the announcement by the Prime Minister followed correct protocol:

Why was this announcement made by the Prime Minister and not the Police Service Commission? Why was this even a Cabinet discussion for that matter? Section 123. (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago clearly states that – “Power to appoint persons to hold or act in an office in the Police Service established under the Police Service Act, including appointments on promotion and transfer and the confirmation of appointments, and to remove and exercise disciplinary control over persons holding or acting in such offices and to enforce standards of conduct on such officers shall vest in the Police Service Commission.”

The Eternal Pantomime, meanwhile, considered their tenure in office to be a failure:

For the two years that Gibbs and Ewatski mismanaged our police force, they have been made accountable for nothing. Not the crime rate, not being absent when the SoE was called, not for wasting money on a crop duster, not for the unchecked murder toll, not for raids on media houses, not for the removal of crime stats off the police website…..not for a damn thing. To date all we know is that Dwayne and Jack came here, earned a hefty salary for two years for doing nothing, resigned….probably with a golden handshake, then left.

Vernette from Live Out Loud doubted Gibbs and Ewatski were ever in a position to make a difference:

When you have to work with a Yes-Man like Former National Security Minister John Sandy who appeared to have no balls when it came to our PM and now the new Sheriff in town Jack Warner who is still unclear as to what Ministry he is really in charge of, how can you be productive? From the time a State of Emergency was called last year and these two men were not even in the country when it happened and worse, appeared to have only known about it AFTER the fact…allyuh shoulda know who was really running the show.

Nasty Little Truths also felt that the problems are bigger than just the Commissioner of Police and that the culture of the entire police service needs to change.

I have to brief for Gibbs, but let’s be clear – show me a man who can change an organisation’s culture that can’t implement disciplinary action and I’ll show you a figment of your imagination. No commissioner of police in Trinidad can successfully fight crime when he can’t whip his men into shape. We have coddled police officers in this country for too long while they hide in police stations and make the well worn excuse of “no vehicles” when you call for help.

 

The thumbnail image used in this post, “Trinidad and Tobago Police Service: Crime plan”, is by TaranRampersad, used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) Creative Commons license. Visit TaranRampersad's flickr photostream.

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