THE EDITOR: Shortly after he was appointed Commissioner of Police in 2018, Gary Griffith boasted that he will fix the problems with the police service in one year. Like so many of his other pithy off-the-cuff gran’ charges, such as his one-shot, one-kill comment, he appeared to be eager to be seen as a cowboy-style quickdraw CoP than one who took the time to listen, assimilate, and understand the information (like Dame Cressida Dick, the police commissioner of London), before resorting to retorts unsuitable to the top cop.
Unlike Griffith, who had never worked in the police service before he was appointed CoP, Dick worked in the British police service for 31 years. According to the UK Guardian, she began as a constable in 1983 and progressively moved up through the ranks. From there she worked in Scotland Yard in 2001 where she was known as a reformer.
It was readily acknowledged that Griffith was an OJT (on the job training). Following his appointment as commissioner, he even went to New York City to meet and learn policing techniques from the ex-mayor, Rudy Giuliani. Little did he know that Giuliani and his newly appointed commissioner, Bill Bratton, were credited with reducing crime with techniques of brutality against blacks which were cruel and debasing to the poor people of NYC.
In their crackdown on blacks, the newspapers reported the police told the people they terrorised that “This is Giuliani time.” A reference to the white Giuliani who replaced the first black mayor, David Dinkins.
Well, here we are, rapidly approaching Griffith’s second anniversary on the job. My question to the CoP is: Are you satisfied with your accomplishments thus far? You promised to be accessible to the people, and yet when I recently tried reaching you on your phone, a recording stated that your voice messages were full. I was advised to leave a phone number, which I did, and I have not yet received a callback. I have also tried reaching out to you on Facebook to no avail.
Many of us initially liked your gung-ho attitude. Your penchant to go up against the “inefficient” system that you inherited. We held our breath and wished you the best. Can he do it? What can he do in the one year that he promised?
If, indeed, sir, you are unable to fulfil your self-imposed deadline, can I then assume that you have failed in your duty to make the necessary changes required to bring law and order to our troubled land? Or will you admit that you, an outsider, cannot make the required changes to the police service and gracefully step aside?
If that is so, I implore you to leave policing to the professionals who have trained and worked in the service decades before you. They know the pitfalls, they know the culture. Do not assume they are all wrongheaded and you are the only one with all the answers.
However, lest you take this the wrong way, I am not blaming you for all the ills of the service, many of which you inherited. You have tried your best, under the prevailing conditions. Nevertheless, you looked to the Americans and tried to adapt their style of policing to TT; that was a mistake.
But before you think I am politically motivated, let me assure you I am not. I believe you acted equitably and with the right motives as your guiding principles. Therefore, do not pack your bags and leave without trying a different type of policing. One that is community-centric, one where people of the different communities can be trusted to make decisions and provide fair and conscientious input even before the law becomes involved. Doing so will take the onus away from the police and place it where it belongs – on the people.
The world is changing. Cities are in flames, police are in riot gear. Do not let the people of TT be drawn into the quagmire that threatens to destroy civilisations. What we need is to make a paradigm shift to a new dawn in policing, the judiciary, and prisons. Let us work together for a gentler, kinder TT, one we can be proud to bequeath to our children and grandchildren.