A student at the St. Joseph’s College in St. Joseph reported to her Principal that $1400.00 was stolen from her bag and was advised by said principal to report the matter to the police. The police were called in and students belonging to the class of the student whose money was allegedly stolen were stripped search by male and female officers respectively. Not being privy to how the actual searches were carried out I cannot say if the officers did it in a demeaning or intimidating manner but some thoughts do come to mind with regard to this whole fiasco.
I first want to address the manner in which searches are conducted by police officers in Trinidad and Tobago. Most police officers in Trinidad and Tobago have no manners....plain and simple. They do not know how to speak to their fellow citizens with respect. I have seen police officers speak to adults as if they were speaking to their own children. In the United States of America for example if you are in a vehicle and a police officer wants to search you, his requests for you to vacate the vehicle usually goes like this “Miss/Sir could you ‘please’ step out of the vehicle?”. Secondly officers in the US ask you to step out of your car if they notice you acting suspiciously, they do not ask you to step out of your vehicle and search you by guess because they get a ‘vibe’ to do it.
I remember once I was sitting in the front seat of a maxi taxi heading out of Diego Martin and there was a police road block in the environs of Powder Magazine. Our maxi was stopped and the police began their ‘selective’ searches...’you come! You Come!’ At the time I was about 22 years old and I remember sitting in the maxi and thinking to myself that something is fundamentally wrong with this procedure. What right does a police officer have to stop a public vehicle or any vehicle for that matter in the absence of a search warrant or any legitimate circumstances such as the search for a known fugitive or a threat to national security, rudely shout at people to vacate the vehicle only to be publicly searched simply because they get a ‘vibe’? Since when is sitting in a maxi heading out of Diego Martin a suspicious act?
Highly annoyed that I was being unnecessarily delayed highly annoyed at having to witness fellow citizens being subjected to such barbaric humiliation I remember sitting in the front seat looking straight ahead, not because I was the least bit intimidated, on the contrary I was firetrucking annoyed at having my Saturday morning rudely interrupted by these uncouth ruffarians in uniform. Low and behold a hand suddenly shoots into the vicinity of my face ‘You come!’ I turn my head nonchalantly at the uniformed pig that barked the order and gave him that look I’m most famous for...the one where I use my eyes alone to tell you what a f***k head I think you are. I considered my options, allow the arse to search me unlawfully or assert my rights and risk being beaten in handcuffs all the way to the pig style (station) to which these animals belong so they can charge me for using ‘obscene language’, even though I didn’t use obscene language as I was too busy shielding blows and stemming the flow of blood from my rude, how dare I declare my rights lips.
I must confess I copped out and took the easy route. My bag was searched and I was patted in public for the first time in my life by a police officer and I must say it is the most humiliating thing ever. Up to this day I have no idea what prompted my search. It’s not to say I was dressed like a ‘bad boy’ and even one's attire, whether dressed like a bad boy or not is not sufficient reason for an officer to search someone because that is blatant discrimination. Even at the age of 17 I never succumbed to peer pressure and indulged in oversize gaudy clothes...straight fitted Levis all the way thank you, I was always conservative that way and my peers accused my pants of being ‘ying’, and I was never one for clothes with big prints. I had on a pair of Levis and a plain t-shirt...so what exactly prompted that officer to call me out for a search?
Honestly before that faithful morning it never occurred to me that simply sitting in a maxi taxi minding my own business on my way to Port of Spain was suspicious activity enough to warrant an officer to search me. And they say we have more rights and freedoms than the people of Cuba? The police service needs to do a complete overhaul on the level of training that is given to officers. Officers must be trained to be seen to be and act as part of the community. Officers must be seen as pillars of respect not pillars of disrespect and champions of bullying tactics. What kind of message is the police service sending to a five year old when an officer pulls over a maxi and shouts out at a passenger ‘You Come!’
My other bone of contention is with these uppity parents of these St. Joseph students and the Parent Teacher Association who seems to represent only one type of class of schools and children. Granted the experience I mentioned above was the first and last time I was searched, as a student I do recall on many occasions making my way home from school or from the library, seeing police officers rough up and strip search students of what may be considered ‘schools of lesser quality’ such as the comprehensives and I do recall that these students would have either been making their way home or waiting for transport. The police would collar these students, clout them and search them in the middle of the road. I remember this one time seeing a female officer ‘bitch slap’ a girl, her head practically did a 360 degree turn.
Not once have I ever heard any head of the Parent Teacher Association speaking out against the police brutally meted out to students attending ‘certain’ schools. But the minute the uptown children are given a little taste of the medicine that is dished out on a daily basis to the downtown students all of a sudden we are hearing about investigations and enquiry into the police’s actions. This is nothing but another blatant example of the gross class discrimination that permeates this rotted society of ours. I also note with much amusement that the Parent Teacher Association does not also see it fit to question why a school pupil will be in possession of $1,400.00, but then again this is uptown people we're talking about here.....who knows it's probably the girl's daily allowance! ©