PORT OF SPAIN –– Two senior police officers were essentially given their walking papers by acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams yesterday during the weekly police executive meeting.
The men, head of the Eastern Division Senior Superintendent John Trim and head of the Inter-Agency Task Force Senior Superintendent Simbonath Rajkumar, formerly head of the Northern Division, were each given a letter outlining the shortcomings in their divisions and given seven days to respond. Rajkumar was re-assigned late last year while Trim was head of the division since October 2015. The men were both given failing marks for their division and told that was the reason for their send off.
In his letter to Trim, Williams stated that compared to 2015 there was a 28 per cent increase in murders, 32 per cent increase in woundings and shootings, 80 per cent increase in burglaries and break-ins, 69 per cent increase in robberies, 41 per cent increase in general larceny, 55 per cent increase in larceny of a dwelling house and 30 per cent increase overall in serious crimes. Rajukumar, Williams stated, was head of the division for half of 2016 and compared to the previous year had an increase in murders of 114 per cent, eight per cent increase in woundings and shootings, 250 per cent increase in kidnappings, 61 per cent increase in burglaries and break-ins, 41 per cent increase in robberies, three per cent increase in general larceny, 36 per cent increase in larceny of a dwelling house and 32 per cent increase overall in serious crimes.
The letter stated that both Rajkumar and Trim “have not made any significant contribution towards the police service improving its performance in 2016”. The letter quotes that on the insistence of the Commissioner of Police, any serving member can be asked to retire according to 74(2) (b) of the Police Service Act No.7 of 2006. Both men are asked to respond in writing why they should not be made to retire within seven days. The letter stated that if the men retire they shall receive their full benefits.
In a telephone interview with the T&T Guardian yesterday Trim, who has three and a half years again left before he reaches the retirement age of 60, said he was puzzled by the move since only last week the Police Service boasted that the Eastern Division had the highest detection rate of all divisions for serious crimes with a 45 per cent detection rate. He said the matter is now in the hands of his attorneys who will address his concerns.
“It cannot be a good feeling he claimed it had nothing to do with integrity and personal performance and public interest but this is Trinidad and when the public and the people will speculate and the speculation will not be in a positive light because it has never been done. So if you jump out of the blue and use not people will speculate in the negative,” Trim said adding crime fighting is a challenging job since there are many contributors to crime.
Trim said it is unfair that in 2017 he is being asked to go home when at the beginning of 2016 he or any officer was told that his performance was being measured in such a way and was not given an opportunity to improve during the year. Asked if he thought it was a personal attack, Trim said he would not want to ventured down that road and reminded the T&T Guardian that the matter is now in the hands of his attorneys.
Trim added: “I would have done my best and the men under me. The letter did not mention the positive performance under me and there are two areas that stand out to me, the highest detection rate [for serious crimes] in the nine divisions, we achieve 45 per cent detection rate. The closest was South-Western with 40 per cent. The 30 per cent set out by the commissioner we surpass it. The other target is the narcotic detection, not the simple possession but for trafficking. Eastern Division for the past three years had the highest amount we were the highest in 2015. Last year we had 102 detections of that offence, the closest division was 62 followed by 61.”
Rajkumar was very candid in his response when contacted. He said the matter was being dealt with and hung up.
In August last year, National Security Minister Edmund Dillon called on divisional commanders to take charge of their divisions. Following his statement Williams mentioned to his senior officers that if they are tired and can no longer fulfill the task given to them the should retire early with full benefits. Contacted yesterday head of the Police Service Social and Welfare Association, Inspector Michael Seales said the timing of the letters is “mysterious”.
Asked if he thought Williams was being politically manipulated in to debuting the 11-year-old amended law, Seales said: “It is mysterious at this time that the Commissioner will make such a move and it is mysterious that an audit was also called for by the Government into the management workings of the police service. The commissioner have tied in his move based on his comparison of 2015 to 2016 and that regression of the individuals named. It is mysterious, can it be his response to the pressures that is being placed on him politically?”
Seales added that from what he had observed from social media posts of his membership, many of them are in favour of the two senior officers going home early. He added that Williams would have asked that the association support him on his move but indicated to Williams that the association receives its mandate from the membership. Seales said that the first division officers have not met with him as yet and is expected to do so soon and he will be able to say what is the response of the senior members. He added that from his information, many of the 170 plus first division officers are concerned by the move since no one is sure who may be next. Seales said the only contention so far is that both men were given top scores from their senior officers in their performance appraisals.