(Trinidad Express) In an unprecedented action which could lead to the humiliation of the top office holder in the Police Service, the report on the March 23 day of “total policing” has called for the acting Commissioner of Police and the three deputy Commissioners to formally apologise to the nation.
The report on the investigation into the “total policing” also recommended a Commission of Enquiry into the activities of police officers on March 23, 2015. The “total policing” led to a massive gridlock on the nation’s roads, causing outrage among citizens.
The report was done by Assistant Commissioner of Police (North West) Vincel Edwards and was presented to the National Security Council.
Minister of National Security Carl Alfonso yesterday tabled the report in the House of Representatives, which in turn referred it to the Joint Select Committee on National Security.
In the report which pointed to the breakdown of command and control on the day in question, the investigator criticised the Head of the Special Branch, another Special Branch officer and TV6’s Beyond the Tape co-host, Insp Roger Alexander.
Alfonso told the Parliament the report recommended “serious consideration be given to the relationship between the officer who co-hosts the television programme Beyond the Tape and the Police Service”.
“His views on the matter were not only contrary, but (were) the exact opposite of the position taken by the Ag Commissioner of Police Mrs Alleyne-Daly. Indeed he praised the position taken by the small group of officers on March 23rd, 2015,” Alfonso stated.
Special branch officer out of line
Turning to the Special Branch, the arm of the Police Service responsible for intelligence-gathering, Alfonso said one of the proposals of the report is that Ag Sergeant Waldropt of the Special Branch, who performed roadblock duties dressed in police uniform be “realigned” for his participation in this exercise.
“The Special Branch is there to provide support and intelligence and avoid participating in situations like these. Yet in this case, the officer in question did the exact opposite,” Alfonso said.
He added: “It should be noted that according to the investigator, “the Head of the Special Branch was not helpful. She was more concerned with her seniority over me and refused to provide me with any information”. “Indeed,” Alfonso observed,” no report was forthcoming from the Special Branch”.
The report which contained six recommendations also suggested a conference be held with First and Second Division Officers to refresh their minds on the provisions of the Police Service Regulations and to reprimand them.
It also recommended that officers who did not participate in the exercise be commended publicly for not pursuing a measure which caused tremendous frustration for the people of the country.
The report stated “while there may be a correlation between industrial action and the police roadblock exercises…there is really no evidence to substantiate this view”.
The report stated there were three reasons for the roadblock exercises. “Malicious obedience, a breakdown of systems with the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service and a breach of paragraph 131 (2) and (3) of the Police Regulations 2007”. The report stated that “malicious obedience to the laws of Trinidad and Tobago generally means that exercises were carried out without any regard or concern for the plight of the general public or even to maintain a relationship with the public”.
It noted that the activities of March 23, 2015, were a “clear indication of the breakdown of some of the systems in the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service”.
The report added: “For a brief moment, between 4 a.m. and 10 a,m, on March 23, 2015, First Division officers in charge of the six Police Divisions and Second Divisions officers who were in charge of six named police stations lost control of their divisions and stations respectively to a small group of junior officers”.
Alfonso said the report found some of the police officers who participated in the exercise described it as a “total policing day” which was directed by the police executive. He said other officers said it was part of the Police Crime Plan 2015 which was initiated by the Acting Commissioner of Police (Stephen Williams).
Praise for Alleyne-Daly
The report cited the astute leadership of Acting Commissioner of Police Ann Marie Alleyne-Daly, Deputy Commissioner of Police Harold Phillip and Deputy Commissioner of Police Glenn Hackett.
Acting Commissioner Stephen Williams was overseas during the event. Alleyne-Daly who was at the helm of the Police Service at the time of the “total policing” apologised to the nation.
Alfonso said it was a crime-fighting initiative of the Office of the Deputy Commissioner of Police Operation, Harold Phillip, who mandated divisional commanders in a memo of January 19, 2015 to conduct “a total policing day” each week with effect from January 19, 2015.
The memo stated exercises should include roadblocks, stop-and-search exercises, ticket exercises, search warrant executions; targeting of priority offenders and gang members.
Alfonso said what the report revealed was the “clear and present danger that could emerge if circumstance places leverage into the hands of a small group of junior officers who may not necessarily have the interest, rights and protection of people at heart.”
“But what is also clear, Mr Speaker, is that the Police Service is administered by persons who have proven that they will enforce their authority and act with fervour against anything that threatens the people of Trinidad and Tobago.”
He said the fact that the chaotic situation was quickly taken charge of and brought under control demonstrated the strong majority of the nation’s police could be trusted to protect and serve.
“This is a Government that respects independence and honours the tenets of autonomy of the different protective arms of the State. But as we have proven, and will boldly prove again if we must, we will not tolerate any threat to the peace, stability, liberty or well-being of the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.