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SSA gets directive to spy on cops
Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon is taking a not so novel approach to keeping members of the T&T Police Service on their Ps and Qs on the job.
In response to complaints over the years about police officers who may possibly be involved in illegal activities, Dillon has reportedly ordered members of the elite Strategic Services Agency (SSA) to monitor the activities of officers on the job.
The T&T Guardian understands that Dillon gave the direct instructions to the SSA since December.
They have been ordered to focus their efforts on first responders, crime scene investigators and elite units within the T&T Police Service (TTPS).
Speaking to the T&T Guardian under strict anonymity, an SSA officer said: “They have their work cut out for them.”
Police officers from the Central Division are on top of the SSA’s list at the moment, the officer said.
“There is too much evidence against police officers, much of which alleges that they are heavily involved in gang and drug-related activities,” the SSA source said.
“We have been going to communities, especially where shootings and murders take place and gathering intelligence. You would be shocked to know the things we are getting on the police.”
He said the recent spate of shootings in the Western Division, including murders and drive-by shootings, are also on their radar.
“We also go to the Forensic Science Centre to gather whatever information and evidence we can. We also pay close attention to police shootings where there are fatalities reported.”
In the past two weeks, the SSA has also been engaged in probes into the shootout between two police officers at Grand Bazaar, Valsayn; the incident involving a Latino woman wearing a senior police officer’s uniform in a station and a police vehicle appearing in a music video glorifying marijuana use.
The move comes after a restructuring exercise within the SSA in November 2017, after the proclamation of the SSA Act 2016. The act expanded the mandate of the agency from intelligence-gathering in the fight against drug trafficking to include that of serious crime.
In that exercise, all staff were subjected to robust security screening and an evaluation process to determine their suitability to continue as part of the organisation. During phase one, 17 employees were asked to undergo polygraph testing, after which they were told to resign and re-apply for their jobs. They were not informed of the results of the polygraph tests.
The SSA source said since that exercise, the officers who remained in the SSA were given strict instructions to do “more groundwork.”
Contacted on this latest development yesterday, TTPS’ Social and Welfare Association president Michael Seales admitted that they had heard talk and discussion on the SSA’s involvement in this activity, but said the association welcomes it.
He, however, noted that one must be careful that those investigations “do not convert into witchhunts.”
Seales said up to last Saturday the association was given potential information which suggests that senior officers in particular divisions are conducting investigations of their own against police officers.
He noted with concern that information that comes to the SSA in its raw form should be passed on to officers of the Professional Standards Bureau.
“The association wants to see action taken against persons who are involved in criminality. It is a worrying situation and we welcome it once it culminates into eradicating officers who are intent on wrongdoing,” Seales said.
Efforts to reach acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams and Dillon yesterday for comment were unsuccessful as they did not answer their cellphones.
TTPS IN DISARRAY—HEERAH
The recent increase in adverse media publicity regarding the TTPS has forced the organisation into a posture of disarray, says former National Operations Centre head Garvin Heerah.
“The absurd increase of almost unbelievable footage sends, and quite frankly, communicates an organisation that seems to have lost its values and morals, not dismissing the foundation or lack thereof of ‘work ethics,’” Heerah told the T&T Guardian.
He questioned whether the TTPS, a public sector agency, was equipped, aware of and adhering to international best practices in conducting reputation management techniques and image repair discourse and in certain disclosures in response to adverse media publicity.
“This needs to be a burning concern for the Ministry of National Security and by extension the TTPS executive. The legitimacy of the TTPS is dependent on the public approval of their actions and behaviour, as well as their ability to secure and maintain public confidence and trust. Obtaining public approval is consistent with successful policing principles,” Heerah said.
Heerah said when faced with a legitimacy crisis, the TTPS must engage in legitimacy repairing behaviour.
“So in the absence of the required acumen, I offer this advice. In order to preserve organisational legitimacy, the TTPS will need to embark on professional image repair discourse. The overcoming of a legitimacy crisis requires the use of various image repair or restoration strategies,” Heerah said.
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