The Flashing Blue Lights of Trinidad and Tobago

Squad Car @ The Bridge
Police car at night in Titusville, Florida, published under a Creative Commons License by Flickr user GunnerVV

One of the things that has bothered me over the years is the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) having their flashing blue lights on all the time. Be it simply being on patrol or running to Kentucky Fried Chicken for lunch, the lights are strobing, day or night.

You can always tell when the police are coming. Always.

Meanwhile, in other countries, I’ve noted that there are different response codes that demonstrate different levels of visibility. Using the United States as an example:

    • Code 1: No lights, no siren.
    • Code 2: Lights, no siren.
    • Code 3: Lights and siren – running hot.

 

It varies from country to country, but there are different levels of visibility of police and EMS vehicles. The TTPS, though, is always at Code 2 for some reason – rarely at Code 3. As a former EMT in the U.S., I’ve noted the ambulances in Trinidad and Tobago have similar codes – most ambulances I see are constantly at Code 2, but that may be because they are supposed to in moving patients.

So, why are those lights on all the time? Given the advances in lighting technology with LEDs, the lights are less of a drain on batteries and they last longer so maybe they feel there’s less reason to turn them off. Of course, at night they can be blinding to drivers – and nevermind the LED billboards that flash blue and make people think that they are police.

I brought it up in a meeting. About how criminals are put on notice before the police actually get there, particularly at night, and how they react accordingly. The response from a member of the TTPS was that the blue lights made people feel comfortable.

There is some validity to that, but the patrolling blue light doesn’t actually stay in people’s homes – it’s a passing beacon of law enforcement that gives as much comfort as a shooting star, which lasts about as long.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, there was a supermarket in the United States – K-Mart – that had flashing blue light specials. K-Mart was on the brink of being shut down in 2017

Times change. With crime in Trinidad and Tobago as much of an issue, it might make sense for police to stop warning criminals to get out of the way so that they might actually catch them.

I’m not a Law Enforcement professional and don’t pretend to be one.

I’m just someone who sees how a neighborhood changes when a blue light passes and how, once that blue light goes away, things return to the way they were.  I’m not sure that what TTPS want to do and what they are doing are compatible.

I simply question if it is an appropriate use of technology to catch criminals.

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Self-Defeating Social Media

Grunge Warning Sign - Do Not Read This SignActivism is very trendy on social media and in social networks. Someone in your network, I’m sure, is intent on saving something – be it trees, wildlife, the environment, some poor misunderstood politician, or something else. Everyone.

It gets to be too much and borders on defamation (or jumps solidly on it) at times. For example, imagine a posting of the rear of a car with accompanying text, “This person threw a bag of kittens on the ground and drove off!”. Horrible, right?

Now imagine that the pictured car is yours. “Wait!”, you’ll say, “But I didn’t do that!” And social media will roar back, “No, no, you did, you’re being dishonest!”

Let’s assume good. Let’s say it wasn’t you. Not very brilliant of the person who started that meme, was it? We forget to question what we see and hear on social media, we refuse to ask questions, and we go with the flow. A few of us unpopular folks take a moment and make a decision whether it merits sharing, but most people don’t seem to have enough brain cells to have that conversation in their brain.

People have died over that stuff when it comes to bombings and other things. I’m waiting for the lawsuits to start rolling in.

In Trinidad and Tobago, there are people posting about hunting out of season, selling animals illegally, etc. The system is allegedly corrupt – I don’t know firsthand, so I say alleged because I have to be responsible for what I write and share. That reporting to authorities has not netted any arrests is frustrating, I imagine – but, too, there’s a lot of frustration about crime and what is popularly seen as the inefficacy of law enforcement.

Be that as it may, it has become trendy to re-post things where people appear to be doing things illegally. Selling monkeys, for example. In a perfect world, one would send that to the authorities and the authorities would do their jobs… and people would get arrested. This, allegedly, is not working, so instead this stuff gets re-posted, shared across networks…

And of course, everyone’s upset, and the only thing that can compete with cute animal videos is what people are upset about. Now take a moment. This guy, because people are upset with him, got his post to go viral. Speculation – if he had monkeys to sell, he was more likely to find a buyer. And, if he has a brain, he’ll learn not to post such things where authorities might start paying attention and prosecuting people.

If authorities do actually want to do something, they’re now trying to find someone who may well know that he’s been made. With just enough brain cells, he ducks it and learns his lesson.

In so many ways, re-posting things can be counter-productive to the intended result.

Think first. Post later.

Having good intentions is not enough, and never will be.