Close to 500 police officers are being investigated by the Professional Standards Bureau(PSB) over the past four years. Of that number 76 have reached before the courts.
The revelation was made at a national security joint select committee(JSC) that was hosted by Port-of-Spain South Member of Parliament, Keith Scotland.
MP Scotland along with the other members of the JSC including Opposition Member Dr. Roodal Moonilal and Independent Senator, Paul Richards began the proceedings by interviewing a team of officers from the PSB headed by Acting Senior Superintendent, Suzette Martin who had taken over the elite unit of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service(TTPS) in 2021. The second team of officers interviewed by the JSC members was headed by Acting Commissioner of Police, McDonald Jacob.
When questioned by Paul Richards about the perceived corruption and unprofessionalism in the police service due to the number of officers being investigated against the slow rate of persecution, Jacob admitted, “We do have a level of indiscipline in the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service and in some instances criminality.”
However, Jacob reasoned that he has been putting solutions in place to solve the inefficiencies in the system that he thought had been causing the delays.
“I had mentioned to my colleagues in the Professional Standards Bureau that I intend to look at it again and establish a Professional Standards Division within the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service which consists of the Professional Standards Unit and the Complains Division. Right now they are separate and that is causing a lot of delays in the system .” Jacobs said.
Jacob pointed out that errant officers are pleased with the present arrangement because matters take a long time to be completed.
He also noted that another part of the problem was, “If matters are not finished before a tribunal within a particular time then you can no longer bring that person before the tribunal and that is being utilized because of how the system is.” He added, “So we are now going to tighten up that system so officers will be aware that the chances of being convicted and their matters finished in a short space of time will be improved when this Professional Standards Division is formed within the next three weeks.”
When Acting Senior Superintendent, Suzette Martin broke down the figures to the JSC, she noted the number of officers that were under investigation by the bureau:
On the other end, her colleague, Superintendent Ricardo Montricard told the committee, “In 2021- we have 18 of those matters completed, 18 were charged and placed before the court, in 2020, 16 officers were charged, in 2019, 23 were charged and in 2018, 19 officers were charged and brought before the courts,” Montrichard said. However, he noted that there were instances where charges were not laid and those matters were simply closed.
Despite this, the PSB head insisted that 50 percent of the matters were almost completed, however she noted part of the delay stemmed from the availability of the evidence. She said that external agencies outside of her control including forensic analysis of evidence posed an issue.
Montrichard listed some of the more frequent offences why officers are investigated and their matters tried before the courts: misbehaviour in public office was the most prevalent, corruption including taking bribes and perverting the course of public justice.
Sargeant Ameer Mohammed when asked about the types of technological challenges the bureau faced said that sometimes CCTV footage of police misconduct is not clear and the bureau does not have the technology to enhance it for identification purposes. He also pointed out that the extraction of information from cellular phones does not always come to the bureau on time and,
Martin also noted that presently the unit that she heads has 34 police officers but the actual strength should be 54.