straight to the point – from different points of view

They failed us – TTPS

They failed us – TTPS

Last week I indicated that I would bring you a series of articles about how various institutions enabled the THA to defy the law and the court judgments by failing to adequately perform their duties. I identified the Town and Country Planning Division, EMA and the Police Service to be covered in that order. Feedback since then has led me to revise that order so as to start with the Police Service. There is probably a need to revisit the roles of other actors including two Ministries, the project Managers at MTS and some peripheral players. They all failed us.

When an unlawful act is allowed to take place in the public space, one has to ask where was the Police Service. When there was advance knowledge the question becomes even more relevant. When the police actively protect the law breaker we enter truly dangerous territory. The active participation of the lead officer in the unlawful act amounts to almost indescribable abuse. All of this happened with the demolition of Mr Hercules booth in 2014.

Before describing the details, I must tell you that a formal complaint was almost immediately submitted to the Police Service. I happened to be on television the following week discussing the CLICO matter when I made passing reference to the demolition and its illegality. After the interview I received a call from Joanne Archie who kindly advised me to make a formal complaint to the Tobago office directly to Snr. Sup. Garth Nelson.

I promptly did so, supplying supporting evidence including photos and videos. There were dozens of witnesses including locals, foreign tourists and the media who could validate my claims. Having reviewed my complaint and the evidence, officer Nelson was so disturbed that he requested a colleague Snr. Sup. Roberts also hear the complaint.

Together they expressed such concern about the role of the police that Snr. Sup. Nelson decided to initiate an investigation which he then announced publicly via Channel 5 television. In the five years since, we have not had a single report on the progress of the investigation. I, the complainant have not even been interviewed. This is despite my several reminders and queries to those in authority including the two recent acting Commissioners and the office of the current Commissioner through someone reporting directly to him. I therefore cannot vouch for whether the current Commissioner is personally aware of the matter. I can however state categorically that his office is aware of it.

The two acting Commissioners both responded to me directly, stating that this was a Tobago matter and that they had referred it back to the senior officer over here. I have had no response from the person in the office of the current Commissioner. I have also contacted every officer appointed to lead Tobago affairs up to Snr. Sup George to no avail.

To rub salt into the wound, an internal investigation was started to establish why the first investigation had gotten nowhere. In this instance I was finally interviewed and we appeared to be making progress when suddenly things ground to a halt. I subsequently discovered that the Tobago office was claiming that they did not know who was assigned to the original investigation and were therefore stymied. It was also said that the latter investigating officer was of a lower rank than the one being investigated and as a result could not continue. One was left to wonder how they knew the rank of the officer given that they claimed not to know who had been in charge of the investigation. We could have told them that the original investigator was an officer Roberts if we knew that they were claiming ignorance.

So much for the efforts to get to the bottom of the matter but the story starts with what happened on that fateful day when the demolition was done. In a normal demolition, one expects to see most or all of the following:

  • A Court Order

  • A bailiff

  • A Title Deed or other proof of ownership

None of these was presented. In fact there was also an outstanding court order preventing THA from demolishing the booth until such time as certain approvals were provided. Inadequate approvals were submitted but on the basis that the defendants themselves (THA) had decided that they met the conditions of the judge. They did not seek judicial or independent validation of their documents.

Furthermore, the officers present were in unmarked uniforms and refused to be identified. It was through good fortune that a member of the public recognised the lead officer as an Alleyne. We subsequently found out that he was Acting Corporal at the time. He it was who participated in the demolition by kicking down some panelling (no video but eyewitness testimony) and removing the T&TEC panel (video evidence and eyewitness testimony). The panel has not been returned to this day.

When approached and asked for a Curt Order, officer Alleyne first angrily argued that he did not need one to justify his actions. After being pressed further by the media and our attorney (by phone) he then changed his story and claimed that they had in fact obtained a Court Order and that it was with his senior officer in Scarborough (Officer Moore). The media then contacted the senior officer by phone who denied any knowledge of a Court Order. He said he never deals with Court Orders. Mr Hercules subsequently checked at the court and verified that no such order had been issued.

The actions of the THA were clearly outside of the law. Even without the injunctive order, the THA did not have the authority to demolish the booth without due process. Any rookie officer should know that. Having been challenged by Mr Hercules, his attorney and the media, the least that officer Alleyne could and should have done was to seek advise from a senior officer or legal personnel in the Police Service. He chose to go his belligerent way.

What THA did was unlawful and outrageous. What should we say about the enthusiastic support rendered by the Police Service for their behaviour? This injustice could not have occurred without the role played by officer Alleyne and his team. Snr. Sup. Nelson appeared to recognise the gravity f what occurred. Sadly though, he failed to pursue the investigation with the alacrity that is demanded.

Mr. Hercules and his supporters are merely seeking a proper investigatin into the events on that day and answers as to why such an important investigation has gotten nowhere. Most importantly, we want lessons to be learned so that this is not allowed to happen to anyone else in the future.

I close with the observation that Acting Corporal Alleyne has now ascended to the rank of Sargent Alleyne. Go figure.

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