Traffic Police can make a difference!

Daily, cyclists and runners take to the roads in pursuit of their sport, and nearly all of them do so while following the appropriate safety requirements. Unfortunately, pedestrians and motorists seem less concerned with safety and more with doing their own thing whenever they want, and expecting to do so with impunity.

Because of this attitude, our roads have become dangerous for all road users. There is no evidence in the behaviour of pedestrians, that we teach road safety in schools. There is plenty of evidence that motorists are on the road who show no signs of having passed the regulations exams. How did we get to this stage?

Unless corrective measures are put in place immediately, the carnage will continue.  More citizens (Parliamentarians read: constituents) will pay with their lives because of the chaos which has been allowed to reign.  Many runners and cyclists can recount numerous near misses in which the driver happily drove off, secure in the knowledge that he/she is unlikely to be prosecuted. Making the roads safer means having an effective police presence or effectively using technology coupled with mandatory mass education programmes regardless of age.

Our policemen seem to have hibernated or are too busy rudely waving motorists out of the way just so the President, Prime Minister, Commissioner of Police, or the latest Machel Montano wannabe can get through.  We seem to have forgotten that in the absence of consequences, people will push the envelope and get away with whatever they can.

These problems will not self correct.  They need:

  • Sustained, ubiquitous police enforcement of the driving regulations
  • A public campaign aimed at promoting acceptable driving standards
  • Retraining of pedestrians on how to use the roads
  • Introduction and enforcement of penalties for jaywalking & pedestrian obstruction of traffic

Simply increasing the fines without enforcement will not have the desired result.  And let’s not forget that the police themselves must be exemplars for obeying the rules of the road.

Too often we observe Police officers driving while chatting on their phones or driving with their right arm dangling out of the window or using their sirens only to be found buying doubles at the next vendor.  I often ask how is the citizen supposed to react to a someone in civilian clothes driving a marked police vehicle? Yes, I’ve digressed; this will be taken up in another post.

Police officers continue to fumble over the chaos on the roads by ignoring the illegal and inappropriate stop/start/stop/start of both illegal (“ph”) and legal taxis, a major cause of traffic; the illegal “u” turns on main roads; drivers rolling through major roads; drivers not stopping at zebra crossings; and even pedestrians not using the zebra crossings and walkovers. These are not headline grabbing activities but if laws are obeyed, and good sense followed, these are the things that signal that we are a society of order.  

A good life is made of lots of small, good actions, preferably by everyone in society.  Doing these the small things can make a big difference.


Gary needs more lightning, less thunder!

Brace yourself for heightened aggression from the police! That’s the message I received from the recent television interview with Commissioner of Police (CoP) Gary Griffith about the alleged Police killing of five young men in Laventille. To paraphrase this very powerful citizen – anyone who objects to his approach either has not been impacted by crime or benefits from the criminal elements. Additionally, this leader resorted to sarcasm and ridicule to respond to legitimate concerns being raised by the interviewer. In a direct jab at his predecessor’s failure to impact the level of crime, the CoP questioned: has it really worked well for the last few years? In a direct ridicule of the grandmother of one of the slain victims who said that the boys held their hands up, the CoP described her as “Super Granny flying through the air”. Super Gary is confident that he has 95% of the population backing him so feels emboldened to insult citizens.

If I were his boss, I would muzzle him for the next 90 days and only allow the Communications Officer to speak to the Media. My first reason for muzzling him is that we have not really seen the impact of his gun talk as yet. As I write, we are counting the number of murders committed for the weekend. Commissioner Gary needs to give his plans time to work before boasting about how he will peg back the criminals because the evidence is that so far, he has not.

My second reason for muzzling him is that he has to be taught what to say. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind is the saying: “not all talk good tuh talk”. His boast that he will fire anyone caught in wrongdoing simply confirms his ignorance of process and procedure. He cannot do so without following a specific procedure, but the Police Association will teach him that lesson. You may say, “That is not what he meant,” but a true leader would have responded from a position of knowledge. That kind of activity is best dealt with by your actions and not your statement of intent.

My third reason for muzzling him is that as a person in a position of leadership, sarcasm cannot be your “go to” approach. Sarcasm as a literary device is often used when intended to mock or insult. The Commissioner of Police should not be intending to mock or insult any member of the public, particularly the media and, in a media interview. His response “Oh Jesus Lord Fadder…” was simply out of place for a leader.

If the CoP’s boss takes my advice, he would have Gary work tirelessly on finding out exactly what happened with the killing of five youths in Laventille and provide an account to John Public. That would demonstrate his commitment to being accountable. His second task would be to identify a collaborative approach for members of the public to work with the police on providing the information they so desperately need and, thirdly I would make the process of promotion transparent.

And while Gary is on lock-down, his boss needs to remind him of the old Apache saying: “It is better to have less thunder in the mouth and more lightning in the hand”