This interview with Dr. Rowley and his constituents aggravated a deep wound in that area. What I saw and heard was a man from within the constituency reliving the pain of the shooting death of his mother WPC Bernadette James and asking for some assurance that the shooting death of the 14 year old female by a Police Officer would be investigated. Twice he mentioned that he was 7 years old when his mother was allegedly accidentally killed on the rifle range on a training exercise in Chaguaramas. He personalized the shootings for the Prime Minister by pointing out that the Prime Minister’s godson was shot on another occasion. This brought the issue of police shootings very close to the Prime Minister and made me ask the question: What can be done?
The optimum approach would be collaboration between the Government and the Opposition but with the recent arrest of a former Attorney General current Opposition Senator, collaboration seems highly unlikely. In 2015 under the Leadership of then Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar, Trinidad and Tobago was listed as an adaptation partner in the Cure Violence programme which is having global success but as usual, when either the UNC or the PNM wrest power from each other, they simply discontinue initiatives and start over. The Cure Violence model to prevent violence is currently being implemented in 10 countries across more than 25 cities and 60 communities. Programs are expanding into new communities in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Latin America, as well as in the Middle East, including Syria. Seems to me that since Trinidad and Tobago has some experience with the programme, we could stretch across the aisle in Parliament, discuss the benefits that could be derived and work towards implementation. Read more about the Cure Violence model here.
The Cure Violence Programme came to my attention via a TED talk by Epidemiologist, Dr. Gary Slutkin who “applied lessons learned from more than a decade fighting epidemics in Africa and Asia to the creation of a public health model to reduce violence through behaviour change and disease control methods. He is an Ashoka Fellow, a Professor of Epidemiology and International Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago, a senior advisor to the World Health Organization and the 2009 Winner of the Search for a Common Ground Award”.
A second area crying for attention is the thousands of people who have been impacted by deaths by shooting over the past 5 years. It is reported that we have had 2,000 deaths by shooting and if we assume that each death impacted 10 people, then we perhaps have 20,000 people suffering some kind of trauma associated with gun violence. Unless there is some meaningful intervention, it is likely that this trauma will lead to more violence.
Crime in Trinidad and Tobago is now at epidemic level and the solution lies in a collaborative approach. It is time to depoliticize crime in the interest of the citizens of our country.
Is it no surprise that Minister Dillon has been removed? The Prime Minister has chosen to sacrifice one of the persons who brought home his political victory in preference for an opposition player. PM Rowley is either a masterful collaborator or the rocks he studies have gone to his head. Here are some excerpts from a Gary Griffith Press Release carried onTV6 on June 17, 2016:
The recent confirmation that the Armoured Personal Carriers have been scrapped by Minister Dillon, again emphasizes that he continues to play politics with National Security, with his sole function being to scrap, disband and dismantle everything that was of value in National Security, just because it was established by the previous Administration, regardless if it was instrumental in reducing crime or based on the direct request by the Protective Services.
This illogical decision goes in line with his previous unfounded comment that our country is not at risk to terrorist activities, and had to be immediately contradicted by the Prime Minister, and rightfully so.
Minister Dillon has not established one policy, but instead his sole actions have been to only shut down, dismantle or cancel every asset pleaded for by the Protective Services.
This latest chapter of Minister Dillon’s agenda “ of shut down and dismantle”, rips into the heart of showing blatant disregard and disrespect for our Protective Services, as it was they who strongly recommended that APCs be acquired, as they are being asked to go into volatile areas, where semi-automatic weapons with high caliber rounds can rip into any regular vehicle and easily kill our Police Officers and soldiers in a second, but Minister Dillon has the audacity to say that these vehicles would not be appropriate, so he is right and every other country that has been using this to protect their troops and our own Army are all wrong.
These are harsh criticisms and a bitter pill for Retired Major General Edmund Dillon to swallow especially since it is being administered by a mere captain.
Within the first week of his appointment as Commissioner of Police, I am concerned; primarily because of the kind of power he now has, and there is very little in his past which assures me that the management side of the task is really being considered. The new CoP has already signalled that he has “78 policies”ready for implementation. That’s commendable but one must remember Peter Drucker who said:“culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Why is that statement important? You can have policies till it oozes out with your sweat, but unless the new CoP is able to engage the hearts and minds of the people he is leading, nothing will change. His leadership style so far has not been seen as collaborative. His army training is based on compliance and I have experienced the arrogance of his power plays. Unless he is an absolutely “transformed” Gary, the “cockroaches” both within the TTPS and on the streets will eat his strategies for breakfast.Dr. Rowley courted the highest levels of the military and the police to be on his election slate. He chose Brig. Gen. Ancil Antoine, Retired Major General Edmund Dillon and retired Assistant Commissioner of Police Glenda Jennings-Smith and he already had former police/lawyer and experienced MP, Fitzgerald Hinds. Their collective experience with law enforcement and the military is more than 100 years. Despite this fire power, crime continues unabated.The fact that these four experienced persons made no headway is instructive. Either they don’t know how to collaborate, or they don’t know how to manage, or both, or something else. But for our country’s sake the Captain must outperform the Major General.