Stakeholders have welcomed Erla Christopher’s appointment as TT’s new Commissioner of Police and the first woman in the country’s history to fill the seat of top cop.
But they warn that she will have some tough times ahead in not only attempting to rebrand the image of the Police Service but in minimising the fear of crime among a citizenry desperate for solutions.
Last Friday, Christopher was unanimously approved by the Parliament as the country’s next Commissioner of Police.
Criminologist Prof Ramesh Deosaran said Christopher assumes the position at “a very critical time” in the country given the state of public fear.
“It is not only the statistics but the epidemic of public fear of crime with the mounting increase not only in murders, which crossed 600 last year, but the increasing number of home invasions,” he said.
“So this means the right to private property is being severely attacked in a society that is supposed to be democratic. It means, therefore, that this new commissioner would have to save the democracy of the country in specific ways – the first being to remove the widespread fear in the public mind because with that fear, all other freedoms and rights will diminish.”
Deosaran said Christopher’s task will not just be to “look at statistics and hold meetings in Port of Spain headquarters,” but to help restore and maintain the challenges of democracy in the country.
Gender Affairs scholar and newspaper columnist Dr Gabrielle Hosein welcomed Christopher’s history-making accomplishment.
“All firsts are significant as women are still breaking the glass ceiling, the level of seniority which they could see but never reach because it was reserved for men,” she commented.
“The appointment of Erla Christopher is worthy of celebration. It’s also worthy that her appointment was widely supported by both sides of the House. I expect that for women in the police force, seeing this first must be inspirational as it should be.”
But Hosein noted that historically, women usually come into such leadership when there are established problems to solve, whether in relation to crime or other issues, like climate change.
Saying that these were problems that developed over periods when women did not have power over their response to solutions, she added, “We must keep in mind that the problem of crime and justice cannot be solved quickly or easily so realistic expectations are necessary.”
Hosein said women also experience what is called the “glass cliff,” in that they are few and far between at the top and yet are seen as a sex to not be competent when they cannot make miracles, “as women are often expected to do.”
In such situations, she said, society loses faith in womens’ different approaches and capabilities.
“The terrain for success and failure is always gendered and the problems of crime and justice remains one that fundamentally intersect masculinity.”
Criminologist Darius Figuera said Christopher’s appointment as police commissioner is a sign that TT has “finally entered the 21st century.”
He said she must now rise to the challenge.
“What we expect now is that Ms Christopher will exhibit all the leadership qualities that are demanded for the realities that we find ourselves in on a daily basis.”
Figuera believes Christopher is quite capable of fulfilling her mandate.
“I know for a fact that she does in fact have the desired leadership qualities and the knowledge base necessary for the job in this present juncture in our history. So, I am very, very assured with the appointment.”