The high incidence of crimes perpetrated by individuals dressed in police gear and using arms and ammunition assigned to the police and army demands an explanation and action from those in charge.
On Tuesday evening in Arima, yet another brazen murder was committed by criminals who came hunting their target in a vehicle equipped with flashing blue lights. They stopped outside a store, four men alighted, two reportedly wearing tactical uniforms worn by the police and the others in camouflage fatigues. They entered the store, grabbed the victim, dragged him out and shot him on the pavement, leaving him there for the real police to deal with.
This modus operandi is being successfully employed to fool victims into complying with what they believe to be instructions from the police, and to prompt witnesses to stand aside in the face of what they believe to be police business.
The fact that this is allowed to continue without the Police Service or Defence Force even bothering to step forward to inform the public of how to distinguish fake from real cops and soldiers, or to account for the apparent access to and use of their gear and weaponry by criminals, is unfathomable.
What are we even dealing with here? Do the police and the army even know if the gear is fake or real? If it’s fake, who is producing them, and where? Is the material being used the same as that used by officers, or simply material that resembles official gear? On the other hand, if criminals are using actual police and army clothes, blue lights and weaponry, then what is the source of their supply?
Given how long criminals have been successfully using this ploy, one would have thought that the police would have busted some ring by now, hauled a few people before the courts, and blown the criminal operation apart. Instead, the people more likely to be arrested for wearing “military” wear are those who are into military fashion, including foreigners who are unaware that wearing camouflage-patterned clothes is against the law in T&T. Back in 2013, there was the ridiculous case of a baby being stripped of its little camouflage pants by Customs at Piarco. By law, the tot’s pants would have been consigned to destruction by fire. Obviously, our security system has what it takes to police a ten-month-old wearing camouflage pants over a diaper, but not criminals wearing tactical gear and blowing people apart in full view of a terrorised public.
We wish we could believe that the country’s national security managers are deeply concerned about this issue, and are honing in on the underground industry that has developed around a trade in police and army property. However, after years of inaction, it would be foolish to believe that it is even on their radar.
No one seems to be in the least bit concerned about the devastating impact of this on public confidence in the Police Service, or by the possibility that police officers and soldiers are putting critical State resources into the hands of the most dangerous criminals in the land.