Ex New York Top Cop to advise T&T police

(Trinidad Guardian) Former New York police commissioner William “Bill” Joseph Bratton is expected to arrive in T&T in November to conduct a “diagnostic test” of the Police Service to determine the root cause of its problems and find a way forward for a more efficient organisation and ultimately a safer country. Emphasis would also be placed on immediately rooting out rogue officers rather than having them remain in the service, sometimes for years, on suspension with full pay before their matters are tried and completed.

Making the statement yesterday was National Security Minister Gary Griffith after meeting with the Police Service Social and Welfare Association for some two-and-a-half hours at the office of the Ministry of National Security, Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain. Asked what would be the cost of hiring Bratton, Griffith only said: “Compared to all the others who were hired, this would be a drop in the bucket…Mr Bratton has a proven track record.

“And I can assure by next year we will have a Police Service and police officers who are second to none.” Bratton also served as the chief of police of the Los Angeles Police Department and was also the Boston police commissioner. Griffith, who described the discussion as “quite productive,” said the decision to bring Bratton was also highly favoured by the association, which was represented by its president, acting Insp Anand Ramesar, and secretary acting Insp Michael Seales.

The National Security Minister made it clear, however, that Bratton’s purpose would be “totally different” from that of Stephen Mastrofski, chair of the Department of Administration of Justice, George Mason University in the US, who was paid some $80 million to revolutionise the Police Service.

 

William Bratton
William Bratton

Asked why he was confident that Bratton would make a difference, Griffith said: “Well, for one thing, he is not coming here on a contract. He will be coming just for a couple of days in the first instance to do a diagnostic test on the Police Service and to ascertain exactly what are the problems, the weakness. “He’ll be examining factors, both from a managerial as well as an operational aspect,” he said.

“He will be looking at factors like the detection rate and how to improve it, he will also be looking at how we analyse date via our CompStat (computer statistics or comparative statistics method). So it’s a holistic approach Mr Bratton would be taking. In essence, he will be looking at everything.” CompStat was proposed by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani who was hired by the Government in 2003 to transform the Police Service.

Saying Bratton was not an “armchair criminologist,” Griffith said he had “phenomenal experience,” both in management and on the ground which included tactical experience. Griffith said he was already aware of some of the problems facing the service but “it wouldn’t hurt” to bring Bratton so he could lend his expertise.

He maintained that T&T had no intention of adopting the solutions of a foreign country but rather wanted to look at the methods used to transform the New York Police Department to make a high-ranking entity. “We know New York has its own policies regarding the threat of terrorists but we also need to look at our own threat assessment and procedures,” he said.

“We are not bringing Mr Bratton here to adopt the measures of a foreign country because every country would be unique, but in terms of transforming the Police Service to make it more effective, to boost the confidence level in officers, to create greater confidence levels between the Police Service and the public, to completely weed out corrupt officers so that the service becomes second to none, that is what we want to achieve.

“There is no harm in listening to what Mr Bratton has to say because he was responsible for creating a police department in New York what is considered America’s finest.” Griffith said after Bratton conducted the “diagnostic test,” it would then be determined whether the Government would hire him for further services.

He said other issues discussed included setting up a better performance management system. This, he said, would not only take into consideration the passing of promotional examinations but having officers become more efficient in the field.

Griffith also praised the efforts of Ramesar and Seales, saying their “thinking was outside the box.” He said: “I fully endorse all of the recommendations of the association. I think they are a very dynamic organisation which is definitely concerned about moving the Police Service to First World standards.” It took only one meeting for Ramesar to decide that Griffith was better than former national security minister Jack Warner.

 

Ramesar, who described yesterday’s talks as “excellent,” said: “My meeting with Minister Griffith has rejuvenated my expectation that this Police Service is properly guided by a minister who has the will to make strong and proper decisions so that the organisation could be enhanced. “The association believes this is the best response we have got by any minister regarding our concerns,” he said.

“By comparison, Mr Griffith is indeed better than former national security minister Jack Warner as he has qualities to be the best national security minister and the ability to get the job done.” Ramesar echoed Griffith’s concerns that some officers were so bent on passing exams to move from rank to rank that they failed in carrying out their duties, resulting in poor service to the public. “We need to move forward with people of integrity and who abide by principles of good governance,” Ramesar urged.

As a means of getting rid of the bad eggs in the Police Service, Ramesar said it was important for the police commissioner be given “more teeth” and greater legislative powers. The Police Service Commission was also discussed and Ramesar said it was deemed a “definite failure” as it had not carried out its mandate. “The Police Service Commission has not made a positive impact on the Police Service…for instance, how is the ability of the police commissioner as an accounting officer measured,” he said.

“Cabinet needs to reconsider retaining some of the commissioners.” Seales called for an audit of the Police Complaints Division to be conducted so as to determine its flaws and implement measures of improvement. A renewed call was also made for special reserve police officers to be absorbed into the service and for municipal officers to be granted an extra $1,000 which is given to SRPs. On the issue of housing, Seales said officers still had to wait for lengthy periods before granting HDC accommodation.