UWI study: Ethnic imbalance in Police Service spans decades

(Trinidad Express) The ethnic imbalance within the upper echelons of the Police Service, that favours Afro-Trinidadians, was pushed centre stage by Police Service Commission chairman Nizam Mohammed two Fridays ago at a Joint Select Committee (JSC) meeting at the Parliament, when he stated his intention to fix the disparity. But this is not the first time this issue has been raised.  A 1994 report entitled “Ethnicity and Employment Practices in Trinidad and Tobago” Volume I—(The Public Sector) compiled by the Centre for Ethnic Studies, University of the West Indies, St Augustine, gives insight into the very controversial issue by looking at the ethnic composition of the Public Services, including the Police Service, and the differences in the rate of mobility for each ethnic group over three decades.

Obtained from the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute for Social and Economic Studies (SALISES), UWI, St Augustine, this report is the first survey that was compiled on the issue and looks candidly at the employment practices in the Public Sector as it relates to Afro and Indo Trinidadians.

Dr John La Guerre, now chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission, was the Centre co-ordinator at the time and held the responsibility for the direction of the survey and its analysis.

The analysis is seen within the executive summary and recommendations section of the 328 page report where it is noted that the Police Service was one of two areas, the other being nursing, where appointments were shrouded in ethnic controversy.

Part IV of the report, looks at the “National Security Services” data from the Public Service for the years 1970, 1980 and 1992 and attempts to determine whether the hiring and promotional practices gave equal opportunity to all citizens, regardless of their race or ethnicity, and whether there were any changes in the ethnic make-up of those hired over that time span.

In the report this is described as a difficult task, since records had been lost or destroyed in the Police Headquarters in the 1990 attempted coup, but the Centre managed to put together a “fairly complete statistical overview”.

The figures obtained showed that in 1970 of a total of 149 sergeants only six were Indo-Trinidadian and out of a total of 274 police officers only nine were Indo-Trinidadian. This was despite the fact that “for the rank of sergeant and higher the Indo-Trinidadians tended to be younger than their Afro-Trinidadian counterparts with the exception of the sole Indo-Trinidadian Assistant Superintendent of Police”, the report stated.

Ten years later, only 22 of the 244 sergeants were Indo-Trinidadian; there was only one Indo-Trinidadian who held the rank of Assistant Superintendent out of 47; there were nine Assistant Commissioners of police of which only one was Indo-Trinidadian and out of a total of 1,282 police officers only 180 of them represented the Indo-Trinidadian population.

The report states that by 1980 the population percentage of Indo Trinidadians had grown to 40.7.

“Given equal representation, the expected ratio in the police force in 1980 is 40.7. Indo-Trinidadians at this time were grossly under represented in the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service,” the report states. By 1992, the strength of the Police Service had more than doubled and there was an increase in the intake of Indo-Trinidadians, yet the number of Indo-Trinidadians represented still remained less than their Afro-Trinidadian counterparts.

Out of a total of 4,672 police officers only 1,153 were Indo-Trinidadian, there were 43 sergeants out of a total of 282, and six of the 47 Assistant Superintendents were Indo-Trinidadian.

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