Gideon Dickson

‘DON’T PANIC’: President of the Police Service Social and Welfare Association, Inspector Gideon Dickson exits the Besson Street Police Station following a meeting with officers after two of their colleagues tested positive for the Covid-19 virus. –Photo: JERMAINE CRUICKSHANK

Eight police officers have tested positive for Covid-19 over the last two weeks.

The latest two confirmations are officers who are attached to the St Clair Police Station and the Besson Street Police Station.

Both officers are said to be police constables.

They were both taken for treatment, even as contact tracing is being done on an estimated 300 officers, administration staff, prisoners, and even citizens, who may have had contact with the constables.

The Express was told that one officer stationed at the Child Protection Unit at the St Clair Police Station tested positive for the virus on Wednesday.

The station was closed and sanitised that night.

The other officer, who is attached to the Besson Street Police Station, tested positive yesterday.

Several officers at the building told the Express that they had been called and informed that one of their colleagues, who is often on patrols, had tested positive.

The men were then told that they needed to self-quarantine, and will have to make themselves available for further testing.

The constable who tested positive was one of two officers who were told to self-quarantine after having contact with persons who tested positive for the Covid-19 virus last week.

He was in contact with a woman who worked at the Criminal Records Office at Riverside Plaza, who had tested positive for the virus.

Her positive case resulted in the closure of two floors at the Police Administration Building along Edward Street, Port of Spain, as well as the Riverside Plaza, on July 28.

Sources said they were concerned for the safety of the men and women that this latest positive case would have come into contact with, as up to last weekend, the officer was said to be conducting patrols, arresting persons, and interacting with administration staff.

Close stations quicker

Police officers who contacted the Express lamented that it was taking “far too long” for the administration to respond to the situation at Besson Street.

They noted that they had been made aware of the situation about 11 a.m., however, up to five hours later, sanitisation officers had yet to visit the station.

“People are still coming in and out of the station. Citizens are still coming in and out. The CID room is right next to the charge room. This had the potential to further spread to the populace. They need to answer why was it that the building was not immediately closed as soon as they were made aware of the positive test. It is almost 4 p.m. (at that time) and no one has arrived. The station is still open. This is grossly unsafe. Not just for the police officers here, but for the citizenry as a whole,” said one officer.

The officers said that when the Police Administration Building and Riverside Plaza were affected, they were both closed “almost immediately”.

“So why is it that the building where the junior officers are working, the men and women who have to be on the ground, patrolling the streets, that those buildings are being forced to remain open? How is that fair?” an officer asked.

Don’t panic

President of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service Social and Welfare Association Gideon Dickson said he was aware of the concerns of his membership. However, he once again called for patience and for the lawmen and women ‘not to panic’.

“I understand how it can seem to some officers, and that perception is very important. But I can state for a fact that when the incident occurred at Riverside Plaza, it did not go off as smoothly or as immediate as they may be recalling. The Association’s office is in that building and we witnessed first-hand the hiccups that were experienced. But it was a situation that only when the bomb is known to have arrived in the building, can you evacuate. You can’t always evacuate on rumours. So as soon as it was confirmed, I know the executive acted. I was there coordinating,” Dickson said.

Dickson noted that the Police Service was currently going through uncharted waters, and unfortunately, he expected that similar scenarios may happen in the future.

“To all police officers I just want to say, I need for us to understand we are in uncharted waters, to the extent that none of us know when corona (Covid-19) will be behind us. So, until the world finds a vaccine, that will be the only time we will have a level of safety and security back to what we are typically accustomed to.

“The virus is here. Covid-19 is with us. We can’t get away from it anymore. All we can do is follow the outlines given to us by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation. Exercise common-sense, while applying the advice that science is telling us. So, wear your masks at all times. Sanitise as much as possible. Social distance as much as possible. And always, always be careful. We are our brother’s keepers in this time. So, let us all look after one another,” Dickson said.

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