OUR COVER STORY by PETER GREEN
Sunshine Today’s month-long investigation has unearthed one of the most corrupt schemes in Trinidad & Tobago, where drug pushers are now infiltrating the heart of the Trinidad & Tobago Police Service (TTPS). It has long been suspected that many police officers are corrupt in divers ways but the hard evidence has been difficult to come by in some cases. Today, however, our investigation has discovered that one of the main ways is through the recruitment process of the TTPS.
No longer is recruitment of prospective police officers done as in the old days when one had to go to various police locations throughout the country to be processed and examined about one’s fitness to join the Police Service. Gone are the days when it was common to even see long lines at the St James Police Academy (formerly St James Barracks).
Today the recruitment is done through a walk-in process. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm one can just walk-in to the Police Academy at St James and apply to be a police officer. Applicants must have 5 O’ Levels including English; be 18 years and over; be a citizen of Trinidad & Tobago; must hold a valid Drivers’ Permit and must have no criminal record. The height requirement of 5’ 8 and one-half inches in height, as a minimum, has been dispensed with after the courts ruled that it was discriminatory.
Applicants who meet the above criteria will then have to write an examination and if successful will then have to undergo background checks usually done by retired police officers. Sounds good, but in fact, it is at this stage in the process that corruption occurs, as discovered by Sunshine Today, with evidence of one such example.
At this point in time female recruits are now undergoing training and are expected to pass out as police officers next month. In the particular case, as unearthed by Sunshine Today, one of the female recruit’s background was investigated (prior to her becoming a recruit in the Police Service) and a number of issues were unearthed that would ordinarily have negated her being accepted in the Service. For one, she lives in a drug den in Arima and her common-law partner is a drug pusher who influences her to peddle drugs.
Such a discovery did not raise an alarm in the Police Academy
It should have been expected that such a discovery would have raised alarm in the Police Academy. Unfortunately, it did not. The case was then given to a second investigator with specific instructions by an officer higher up in the ranks to overlook all the negative remarks of the female recruit and to submit a different report. On the day of the written exams, the first investigator was surprised and visibly upset to see the same female recruit, whose investigation by him had been negative, doing the exam at the Police Academy. He questioned her presence with the Officer in charge of recruiting, an Ag Inspector, and was told by the Ag Inspector that selection of the recruit in question was “above my pay grade.”
It is reported that the first investigator was almost in tears and was visibly upset. He then stated that “it is no wonder that the calibre of officers entering the Police Service is so low.”
What the facts reveal is that the female recruit’s application had been pre-approved by someone holding a much higher office than the Ag. Inspector in charge of recruitment. It is being said that the Recruitment office in the TTPS is the most corrupt in the Police Service and it has hit rock bottom. Rumours abound that it is not unusual for persons in that office to take bribes for as much as $10,000 per recruit from drug lords just to get their people in the Police Service.
It must be remembered that recruitment and training in the Police Academy are at the core of the TTPS. The underworld is getting the opportunity to infiltrate the Police Service so as to get a toehold from which they will then have a foothold and eventually a stranglehold.
An immediate is required
Sunshine Today strongly urges the Police Commissioner to initiate an immediate investigation into this matter as well as the entire recruitment process if only to ensure that persons entering the Police Service are not as tainted as the officers who are responsible for recruitment.
If the Police Service is not turning out suitable officers then law and order would obviously be imperiled. Only a few weeks ago it is understood that one recruit stole $500 from another recruit and this incident was kept hush hush and swept under the carpet.
Sunshine Today is saying that the Commissioner’s investigation should not end with the aforementioned cases and the quality of persons recruited. He should in fact, investigate the quality of training that now takes place at the Academy, where it is understood that drilling is now a thing of the past. There are also complaints about the lack of water; the lack of toilet paper and the lack of air conditioning. To top it off, there is also a power struggle in the Academy where the organizational chart shows that the Provost holds a higher office than the Sr Supt in charge of the Academy, however, the Provost gets no respect from him since the Provost is a civilian.
What is needed is an efficient person to head the Academy otherwise all will fall down in that 100-year old facility.
Let the chips fall wherever they fall
When asked about his views on the matter, the Commissioner of Police advised that he is unaware of the revelations of this newspaper but that he will investigate and take appropriate action where necessary and let the chips fall wherever they fall. The TTPS has been in operation for over 200 years though at one time its name had been the TT Police Force. There are 9 Divisions in the Police Service with 18 Branches.
Over 6500 police officers of varying ranks are in the Police Service and the Police administration has improved the officers’ working conditions through the use of forensic evidence and surveillance technology (CCTV) as well as by hiring overseas experts. Their salaries have been enhanced tremendously over time as well as their hours of work.
However notwithstanding all of these benefits, there are still too many corrupt officers in the Service and this has resulted in many of them being charged and convicted for some of the most heinous crimes including murder, kidnapping, misbehaviour in public office and larceny.
Just last week a police corporeal in the Central Division was sentenced to 18 years in prison for rape and attempted murder of a young lady whom he was with since she was a minor. At that same Division a few weeks ago two senior Police officers were suspended for misbehavior in public office – all of this no doubt has its genesis in the poor recruiting system and it is now left to the Commissioner of Police, Gary Griffith, to bring an end to this sad state of affairs beginning with a review of the Police recruiting process.