Police officers attached to the Capital City Patrol Unit (CCPU) at Central Police Station (CPS) conduct a road block on Independence Square North yesterday

At a time when home invasions are increasing, the T&T Police Service could shut down due to allocation cuts in the 2021 Budget, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar warned yesterday.

In her reply to the Budget, Persad-Bissessar called Government out on TTPS allocation cuts.

“At a time when home invasions and robberies have increased drastically, we see a very concerning cut in finances to the police service,” Persad-Bissessar said during her Budget response.

“TTPS has been strangled to a point where they’ll be unable to equip the officers on patrol. There’ll be a shutdown of TTPS if nothing is done on allocations. Not that they’d strike but they’d be unable to perform functions.”

She explained, “There’s been an overall reduction for the TTPS in goods and services from $515.8 million fiscal 2020 to $334.6 million for 2021.

“The goods and services budget allocation for 2020 was $515.8 million. However, TTPS only received releases of around $400 million – a shortfall of $100,000,000. This means TTPS was unable to pay contractors and other agencies. Many of these contractors who are still owed have indicated they’ll soon no longer service TTPS. These include repairs of vehicles and supplies of material.”

Persad-Bissessar added, “With the 2021 allocation being $181,157,278 as well as the $100,000,000 shortfall in releases, TTPS is starting 2021 in a $282,000,000 hole.”

She also noted the TTPS $40m allocation in 2020 for vehicles was reduced to zero for 2021.

“International best practices dictates that police forces worldwide annually change 20 per cent of vehicle fleets, ensuring vehicles that can stand up to police work,” she said.

“Zero allocation means that for 2021, TTPS will be unable to acquire new vehicles to replace ageing fleet or damaged vehicles – thus less vehicles on patrols.”

Persad-Bissessar listed other allocation adjustments for the TTPS for vehicle maintenance and recruits’ food and for small equipment, including tasers, pepper spray and body cameras.

She also noted there is no allocation for the Gender-Based Violence and Sexual Victims Units despite increased attacks on females.

“This means that while the TTPS was developing special victims’ locations where a rape or abused victim would be able to be interviewed, or swabs taken in a timely basis, or to be counselled in a special designed facility, these unfortunate victims will have to remain in the main office for all and sundry to observe them. It also means the victim will remain in the public area not being able to bathe and have to wonder when the evidence will be taken.”

She said the continuation of fingerprinting systems, as well as GPS and onboard cameras in vehicles, are also at risk in the funding adjustments.

Persad-Bissessar added, “This budget has gutted the police service and this will lead to severe consequences for law and order.”

She also noted, “Within 48 hours this week, three home invasions were reported in south Trinidad. In one case an 87-year-old retired medical doctor was confronted by armed bandits at 3 am.

“However, the Minister like Rip Van Winkle has not yet awoken to this grim reality which citizens face on a daily basis …But for the Prime Minister hell hath no fury like a peacock stolen. They commandeered the elite hierarchy of the police service to hunt down those miscreants responsible for stealing the Prime Minister’s peacock dead or alive.”