Racial imbalance in the police service: Defending attorney Israel Khan

Racial imbalance in the police service:  Defending attorney Israel Khan

Photo : Attorney Israel Khan

I wish to take issue with the editorial in the Trinidad and Tobago Express dated Thursday August 2, 2018 entitled “Israel Khan’s cheap shot.”

The editorial severely reprimanded the distinguished attorney for using race to analyse the composition of the local police service which he found to be heavily Afro-dominated. It unfairly denounced the Senior Council by using the following words: “Such loose talk is truly disappointing …. Equally disappointing is the hollowness of Mr Khan’s public statement.”

The editorial continued the rebuke by stating that Khan “indulges in the stunning leap of illogic that the large presence of Trinbagonians of African descent in the TTPS ‘does not augur well for a cosmopolitan nation’”. The editorial persisted in pounding Khan for being allegedly being irresponsible, “superficial,” and “cavalier” on a “sensitive and potentially divisive” issue.

Whew! Please allow me a second to exhale.

In an effort to flog Khan again, the Express Editor-in-Chief, Omatie Lutchman-Lyder, published a hard-hitting letter the following day. It was purportedly written by Dwight Hall and entitled “Shame on you, Israel Khan.” In his letter, Hall accused the learned attorney of “being purely racist” and “very asinine.”


Nizam, Ryan and La Guerre made the same observation

Another attorney, Nizam Mohammed, who was chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), had made the same observation as that of Khan on the racial imbalance in the police service. For this public statement, Mohammed was fired from the PSC in April 2011. But Mohammed had his day in court and won!

Incidentally, Mohammed also won a defamation case against the Express. In his lawsuit, Mohammed claimed that an article on him in the Express was “irresponsibly published” and was against the “tenets of responsible journalism.” The High Court judge ordered the Express to pay TT$325,000 in damages to Mohammed. In her witness statement, Editor-in-Chief Lutchman-Lyder said she wrote the correction and thought it sufficient to correct the errors in the article.

Twenty-five years ago, Drs Selwyn Ryan and John La Guerre had made the same observation as that of Khan and Mohammed. The two professors were lead researchers in the Centre for Ethnic Studies at the UWI.

Ryan and La Guerre reported that in 1991, out of  a total of 109 Special Reserve Police (SRP) officers enlisted into the Regular Police Service, only 17 (16%) were Indo-Trinidadians (Indians). The researchers found that Indian police applicants were “generally better qualified (academically)” but scored lower before the interview panel which comprised exclusively of Afro-Trinidadians.

Ryan and La Guerre wrote that “it is expected that cultural factors could account for differentials in interview performance in favour of Afro-Trinidadians. …. In an interview, it is virtually impossible for an interviewer to be detached from his/her ethnic community.”

The two professors stated that “it must however be realised that there are cultural differences in the society, and that for Indo-Trinidadians to fully identify, they need to see their ‘own people’ as authority figures and role models” (pages 232-233).

Dear Editor-in-Chief Lutchman-Lyder, were the findings by Ryan and La Guerre also a “cheap shot”? Were their empirical observations also “loose talk” that were “truly disappointing” as you have ascribed to Israel Khan? Was the establishment of a Centre for Ethnic Studies at UWI also insensitive and potentially divisive?


Racial composition of the police in the UK

Why this harsh, unjustified, unnecessary and excessive criticism of Israel Khan? What is wrong with using race to analyse the composition of any social group? In my article entitled “Why we SHOULD talk about race,” published in www.icdn.today, I wrote that race, ethnicity, class, sex, religion, nationality, geography, etc. are valid, legitimate and appropriate social categories of difference in examining historical and contemporary issues.  To sometimes overlook race is to ignore the elephant in the room.

For her Ph.D. dissertation, Bela Bhugowandeen studied the ethnic composition of the police service in England. Bhugowandeen wrote: “All forty-three police forces in England and Wales were required to meet targets set by the government to increase the number of recruits from minority ethnic communities.”

For highlighting this statement, is this Ph.D. student at the University of Poitiers in France racist like the accused Israel Khan? Or equally irresponsible, “superficial” and “cavalier” on a “sensitive and potentially divisive” issue?

According to the CSO population survey (2011), Indians constitute the largest ethnic group (35.4%) in T&T. Africans form the second largest (34.2%). Mixed Afros and Indos (Douglas) make up 8%. Why doesn’t the Express also make a big hullaballoo about the marginalisation of Indian men in visual advertisements? And the proportionately under-representation of Indians as recipients of the Government’s housing scheme? Of the three daily newspapers, why was it only the Express that refused to cover the public street protests that followed the firing of mainly Indian lectures from UTT on May 11, 2018? Shame on you, Express.