Kamla Persad-Bissessar

Public Security - Nov. 17, 2011

Kamla Persad-Bissessar
November 17, 2011— Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, Republic of Trinidad & Tobago
Inaugural Session of the Third Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Public Security in the Americas
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Cooperation, unity and commitment are the best instruments we can use to address the “complexity, gravity and urgency of public security in the hemisphere”.

With this statement, I warmly welcome you, on behalf of the Government and people of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, to the Third Meeting of Ministers responsible for Public Security in the Americas (MISPA III).

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago is pleased to be the host of this Meeting. Your presence here today, is a clear demonstration to all our people across this hemisphere, of the importance of the “Commitment to Public Security in the Americas”, that was adopted at the very first meeting of MISPA in Mexico in 2008; a “Commitment”, which is based on five pillars:?1. Public Security Management;?2. Prevention of Crime, Violence and Insecurity;?3. Police Management;?4. Citizen and Community Participation; and?5. International Cooperation.

Your presence here today is also indicative of all our countries’ cooperative efforts to address citizen security. The MISPA forum brings together policy makers and experts in the field of public security. It provides an opportunity for the exchange of ideas and the sharing of experiences, to enhance the security of our citizens, nations and the hemisphere. ? ?Ladies and Gentlemen, ensuring public safety and security is a fundamental duty and obligation of all our governments. Fulfilling this obligation most certainly requires a strong, solid coalition. Through MISPA, we have positively exhibited and reiterated that such a coalition can exist.

Although a relatively new forum in the OAS, MISPA plays a crucial role in improving our overall security conditions, whilst ensuring full respect for human rights, promoting education, health and socio-economic development.

I am pleased to say, as host of MISPA III, that the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago truly recognizes the benefits of the MISPA process, as well as, the unique opportunity it offers to address issues of governance, growth and development, through the implementation of strategic public security policies and programmes.

For MISPA III, Trinidad and Tobago recommended that this forum focus on one of the five (5) pillars identified in “The Commitment”; specifically that of ‘Police Management’. This recommendation received unanimous support from all Member States, which allows for comprehensive ventilation on all pertinent issues pertaining to ‘Police Management’.

This is important as, at MISPA I, Ministers expressed concerns over the absence of standards which guarantee uniformity and the administration of the police services. Additionally, at MISPA II, Ministers were desirous of having more time allocated to frank and open discussion on issues, which are essential for the security of the hemisphere.

Your focus on Police Management over the next two (2) days will facilitate recognition of national efforts and the dissemination of information on new and creative ways to achieve a better police service; which would inevitably result in enhanced public security.

Democratic systems cannot thrive, economies cannot develop nor can human rights and dignity be preserved without our citizens having confidence in the integrity of their police. We cannot be oblivious to this reality. If our police organizations do not continue to make progress towards restoring trust, confidence and safety, the hemisphere will continue to experience unacceptably high levels of crime, which is said to be “higher than any other region of the world”.

Now is the time to address this issue. There is recognition of the need to reorient the police forces and transform them to play a new public security role - a role that could only be achieved when there is full observation of the laws of human rights, when information is shared between police organizations and when there is effective community partnership and participation.

When Police Management is enhanced, Member States of the OAS will, inter alia, realize:?• Improved technical capacity of the police forces to execute their duties;?• Modernized curriculum and training programs for the police; ?• Increased knowledge of and respect for human rights among the police forces;?• Harmonization of the legal framework with international law and practices;?• Improved working environments for police officers; and ?• Improved relations between police and the public.

Permit me to share with you some recent experiences of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service and the robust thrust to achieve effective Police Management, which I hope would also lend a voice to the discussions which will take place over the next two days.

The Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is guided by the principle that the highest mission of society is in the development of its citizens. Accordingly, our commitment is to promote a process of people-centred development. Unless matters such as, security, law and order and proper policing are attained, Trinidad and Tobago will not achieve this desirable end.

I am proud to say, that the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service has taken steps to avert the undesirable, and has recognized the imperative for change. One of its initiatives in that regard, rightly termed the “21st Century Policing Project” has introduced a modern, contemporary and innovative approach to policing in Trinidad and Tobago. It is envisaged, that by creating community partnerships, fostering innovation and by policing for excellence, the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service will achieve, inter alia, management accountability, efficient use of resources and most importantly, restoration of public confidence. It is a step, which, among other things, would remove negative perceptions that have flooded the public’s thinking and deliver on the commitment to provide safety and security to the citizens.

In a further effort to enhance public safety and security in Trinidad and Tobago, the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, has embarked upon the establishment of a Private Security Network Commission (PSNC). Public-private dialogue is crucial in the exchange of ideas and the advancement of effective policing. The PSNC therefore allows for the creation of a forum for inter-agency collaboration, with the end result being the creation of a functional partnership between the Police Service and members of the Private Security Industry. The PSNC recognises that at present, various parties concerned do not always communicate, or do not communicate sufficiently. It is envisioned that by engaging some twenty thousand (20,000) additional pairs of ‘eyes and ears’ from the private security, the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service will be in a position to transmit relevant information for appropriate law enforcement action.

Ladies and gentlemen, the police officers of our hemisphere have a huge task of protecting each of us from the many dangers, which exist and they operate from both their heads and their hearts. From their heads, there is an understanding that maintaining a safe environment is paramount and from their hearts there is compassion for those affected by crime and who suffer from the insecurity, which is created by criminals in our countries.

Today, Ministers as you sit to discuss issues regarding Police Management for the benefit of police forces in the hemisphere; I call upon each one of you to guide this process so that decisions will be made from your heads AND from your hearts. Let us not forget, that we are ALL responsible. Every citizen, every one of us is responsible for making progress towards making the Americas a safer and more humane region.? ?The MISPA forum is fundamental for hemispheric and international security and I urge you to continue your efforts to meet the security needs of the Member States of the OAS.

In closing, I wish to state that as the Lead Head of Government in CARICOM with responsibility for matters relating to Crime and Security, I stand shoulder to shoulder with MISPA, and support the efforts to achieve public security through, inter alia, effective police management, the strengthening of collaboration and the sharing of ideas which will assist us all in defence of our nations from the threats of crime, violence and insecurity; and ultimately preserve our sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence.

I wish you all a productive and fruitful two-day meeting and, I hope you make some time to bear witness to and experience the warmth, beauty and culture, which surrounds us here in Trinidad and Tobago.

I thank you.