Published: Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Yvonne Webb, Trinidad and Tobago Guardian Online
Defective bicycles have almost kayoed the police bicycle unit which was introduced in 2008 to grapple with crime in shopping and residential areas. The business community has called for the unit to be more visible as the Christmas season approaches. President of the Police Social and Welfare Association acting Insp Anand Ramesar said yesterday the unit, which was introduced during the tenure of Commissioner James Philbert, was not as visible as originally intended.
“Tobago is more amenable to the bike unit as opposed to Trinidad. There is a visible bike unit in Tobago but it is not visible in Trinidad,” Ramesar said. He added: “A lot of bikes were used for a while and then they became defective. Bikes have been packed up for simple things like deflated tyres, bent rims, no brakes, those kinds of things. “It exists but it is not operational to the extent it was intended, (and) in addition, because there was a failure to treat with issues, in terms of insurance and looking after the well-being of police officers.”
When the idea of a bike unit was first proposed, the association expressed reservations that police on bicycles would be more vulnerable to the criminal element. The association called for insurance for police officers of at least $1 million. Those issues were never worked out. Ramesar said yesterday the unit exposed officers to greater risk without increasing their safety.
On the question of the proposed body cameras for police officers, Ramesar said he did not know if that would become a reality. He said at present body cameras were being used as part of the evidence-based policing experiment being done by criminologist Prof Lawrence Sherman of the University of Cambridge. On the basis of his recommendations, it may be reinforced or suspended, Ramesar said.
Earlier this year, Williams said the Police Service was utilising evidence-based policing as the new approach. He explained then it was not about getting criminal evidence but using scientific evidence to treat with crime. He said that approach was about changing the culture of the police and was one of several new initiatives that had resulted in the reduction of the murder rate.
“Prof Sherman, one of the champions of evidence-based policing, was brought in and he is here on a 90-days experiment. I understand there are some hiccups. I am not sure of the extent,” Ramesar said. One challenge, he said, was the cost, which was in the vicinity of $15,000 to equip an officer with a body camera, in addition to the database and recording of the video and audio.
Additionally, he said, having a body camera on at all times could hinder an officer from following his sixth sense and pursue a lead, which sometimes ended up with the crime being solved. He added: “Officers will play it safe all the time if there is a camera attached to their body... but sometimes, you need to chase a man on a hunch, you know. “But with a body camera, if you chase a man on a hunch and it turns out wrong, you down for disciplinary charge. Calls to acting Commissioner Stephen Williams went unanswered yesterday.
Interesting comments at http://guardian.co.tt/news/2013-11-12/flat-tyres-bent-rims-ground-cops%E2%80%99-bicycle-unit