Over the past few months the eyes of our nation have been fixed on the appointment process of a new Commissioner of Police (CoP). The debate at all levels of society about the process and the eventual selection of the CoP is indicative that Trinidad and Tobago is becoming a mature democracy.
This type of cross-sectional debate is socially and spiritually healthy according to Catholic social teaching.
Participation is a key principle of Catholic social teaching that claims that all people are equal in dignity and have a right to participate in civil society. At its core, the principle of participation is shared responsibility for decision-making and for creating justice in every aspect of life.
Practically, this means that a society, via its economic, social and political structures, must ensure that no one, especially the poor, is marginalised in the decision-making of a society.
The interest taken in ensuring a CoP is appointed, the protest and debate inside and outside of parliament, particularly on social media, over the selection process is the principle of participation incarnated in Trinidad and Tobago society.
The debate and ferment over the CoP demonstrate that our people are claiming their right and honouring their duty to participate in the process of governance as it relates to the crime prevention and management. However, participation must not end now that a CoP and a new Minister of National Security are appointed.
The appointment of CoP is not the panacea for our crime woes. The new ‘dream team’ as one media house put it in the aftermath of the appointment of a new Minister of National Security, is not the solution par excellence to crime.
We would be shallow to think that our murder rate will fall to single digits from 300 plus because two new men are appointed. Participation in the life of our society has to take place beyond debate, selection and new appointments.
The society as a whole, has shared responsibility with these two new appointees to educate on the root causes of crime and its prevention.
The institutions of school and family must be encouraged, equipped and facilitated in the ‘response’ to crime via value education and education on the respect for the rule of law.
Can our law school students be challenged as a part of their curriculum to teach the respect for the rule of law at every primary and secondary school for credits towards their law degree?
The relationship between respect for the rule of law, social awareness and crime should be part of the school curriculum. Value education and civics should also be examined at SEA and secondary school levels.
Clearly, the billion-dollar budget of the Ministry of National Security should be shared with a well thought out Ministry of the Family and the Ministry of Education to facilitate a three-prong approach to crime: family, education and national security. This should be buttressed by scientific research into the causes of crime in this country.
All institutions have a duty to co-operate with the Ministry of National Security and the entire police service to confront crime in all its forms and expressions. This would be another form of participation in society.
In this way parents, guardians, teachers and law school students get to participate in the crime prevention beyond the August appointments of the so-called ‘dream team’.