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Trinidad & Tobago - Military Doctrine

In accordance with Section 5(2) of the Defence Act, Chapter 14:01 of the Laws of Trinidad and Tobago, the units of the Defence Force are charged with the defence of Trinidad and Tobago and with such other duties as may from time to time be defined by the (Defence) Council. Since the ratification of the Defence Act, these other duties have never been defined nor promulgated. Instead, units of the Defence Force have, over the years, assumed various roles largely out of a sense of civic duty and have adopted these roles as part of their operational responsibilities without any clear policy directives. The de facto responsibilities of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force are:

  • To cooperate with and assist the civil power in maintaining law and order.
  • To assist the civil authorities in times of crisis or disaster.
  • To perform ceremonial functions on behalf of the State.
  • To provide search and rescue services in keeping with national requirements and international agreements.
  • To assist in the prevention of trafficking in narcotics and other illegal goods.
  • To safeguard and preserve the living and non-living resources in the waters under national jurisdiction.
  • To monitor the safety of shipping in national waters.
  • Pollution monitoring and counter measures.
  • To assisc in the prevention of illegal immigration.
  • To assist in the development of the national community
The Ministry of National Security oversees the police service, immigration division, and defense force, which includes the coast guard. The police service maintains internal security, while the defense force is responsible for external security but also has certain domestic security responsibilities. The coast guard is the main authority responsible for border security along the coastlines where there are no official ports of entry. The Customs and Excise Division and the Immigration Division are responsible for security at the ports. Members of the defense force often joined police officers in patrolling high-crime neighborhoods. Defense force members do not have arrest authority, apart from the coast guard, which can arrest in territorial waters and the Southern Caribbean. In 2013 the Miscellaneous Provisions (Defence and Police Complaints) Bill 2013 proposed to grant members of the Defence Force the same powers of arrest as police.

The independent Police Service Commission, in consultation with the prime minister, appoints a commissioner of police to oversee the police force, although there has not been a permanent commissioner assigned since 2012. The commission also makes hiring and firing decisions in the police service, and the ministry typically has little direct influence over changes in senior positions. The Police Service Commission has the power to dismiss police officers, the commissioner of police can suspend officers, and the police service handles the prosecution of officers. Municipal police under the jurisdiction of 14 regional administrative bodies supplement the national police force. Public confidence in police was very low because of high crime rates and perceived corruption.

In late 2011, the government implemented a State of Emergency to deal with what they deemed specific and emerging threats. Along with the State of Emergency, a curfew in particular areas of the country was imposed. During the State of Emergency, the murder rate was greatly reduced, contributing to lower numbers of murders for 2011.

The Police Complaints Authority (PCA) is a civilian oversight body that investigates complaints about the conduct of police officers, including fatal police shootings; however, it received insufficient funding and had limited investigative authority. The PCA is free by law from the direction or control of any other person in the performance of its functions. The PCA had 20 investigators, and from October 1, 2015, through August 16, 2016, the unit received 320 complaints. Through investigations by the PCA and other bodies, authorities charged police officers with a number of offenses, including attempted murder, corruption, and kidnapping. The Police Professional Standards Unit and the Police Complaints Division, both nonindependent bodies within the police service, also investigate complaints against police.





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