You could bet your last dollar that whenever the police kill a wanted man, there are plenty witnesses.
You could also wager a dollar on when a gunman kills another, there are no witnesses.
That’s the reality in Trinidad and Tobago today. The police are being blamed for executing Adil Gilbert in San Fernando on Thursday, causing both the Police Service and the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) to order separate investigations.
It is true that the police have trust issues with the public, but really, with the crime rate as it is, the majority of citizens are not bothered when they hear a wanted man is killed. Citizens are worried about the crime rate in the country. With Christmas approaching, bandits are stepping up their game.
Two examples on Thursday, a doubles vendor is robbed of $50,000, and a woman and daughter held up by the same two men after leaving the same bank at Trincity Mall. People are scared.
Look at two recent incidents where policemen were shot. In Diego Martin, Inspector Kenneth Morgan was shot when he confronted two bandits at a barber shop. One bandit was killed and a customer fatally wounded. Last weekend, two men were shot outside a bar in Curepe and a policeman shot in the foot while challenging the killers.
Police say that Adil Gilbert was wanted for questioning for murder and other crimes. His family say he was innocent. But why did Gilbert run for the police to shoot him in the back? Police had to use a drone to flush out Gilbert because the wanted man had spies looking out for him.
The situation is the same in the United States now with a series of police killings which have turned the focus of attention on the police.
Every time the police in Trinidad and Tobago kill someone, plenty witnesses line up to give statements. Why do you think that the majority of murders remain unsolved in 2016? Witnesses see nothing, hear nothing, know nothing.
Why is this so? Some witnesses are related to the killers; some are fearful for their lives; and others do not want to get involved.
So how can police detect and solve cases if witnesses are reluctant?
Let’s go back to the days of Randolph Burroughs and the Flying Squad. Formed in the aftermath of the Black Power Protests in 1970, the Flying Squad was credited with having saved this country from the National Union of Freedom Fighters (NUFF) who threatened the stability of the young independent nation.
NUFF members were killing people and robbing banks. They had the country on an edge and they were invisible. Reason? They hid in the forest and it was difficult for the police to find them. The Flying Squad engaged the NUFF and literally wiped out that group with the exception of a few.
In the ensuing years, the Flying Squad killed numerous criminals, but soon word spread that they were getting close to certain drug dealers, namely Naim Naya and Dole Chadee, among others. Then came the Garvin Scott Commission of Enquiry which used underworld figures and disgruntled police officers to bring down the Flying Squad.
The departure of the Flying Squad was an invitation for criminals to resurface. The situation worsened in 1992 when the 114 insurgents of the 1990 attempted coup, were freed, it was a further licence for the criminals to do their crime and they won’t be punished.
Now, President of the Police Social and Welfare Association, Michael Seales, is calling for body cameras for police officers. How late!!!!
Hear him, “Let me just say the feedback should be body cameras are a priority now. I have gotten expressions from the membership of what has been shown is just one version of the event.
“I’ve had the benefit of looking at it in its detail and I understand now that we need body cameras because it would capture footage from the inception of police activities and not at the back end of police activities, which is what we saw.”
Seales said it was time for the Government to do what needed to be done to ensure officers were outfitted with the gadgets. He added cameras would also assist in training new officers in ways to diffuse hostile situations and how to act under certain stresses of the job.
“There was some reluctance initially (to body cameras) but now we are seeing that the membership is running towards it. As I said, part of the expression of the social media network, the membership has said ‘You know what, it is about time for the body worn cameras because it would have captured everything instead of a he said, she said thing.’
“Because not everything was caught in relation to the footage online right now in relation to the private citizen,” he added.
He said the footage should not be treated like a holy grail and be hidden but made available to the citizens. He said vice-president, Insp Anand Ramesar, underwent training on body cameras and suggested that like in the United States, the footage be made available online.