I was recently called to the offices of the CCID (Central Criminal Investigation Department) to make a statement on behalf of someone else. My visit to the CCID HQ at Line Barracks in Port Louis left me stunned.
I entered the square fortified compound via the pedestrian gate, past the queues for drivers licenses, through the ample grounds that include two soccer fields and parking. There was an air of sunny peace and tranquility. I stopped at the visitors’ booth at the entrance to the CCID section, and was helpfully told to go upstairs.
It was like stepping into the past. Up some dark stairs to a long passage along a planked floor that felt ready to collapse at any moment. In fact there was a big peace of metal covering what must have been a previously collapsed section. I walked past a number of office entrances until I found one that was fairly full of people. There were about seven plain-clothes officers all busy in some way. I stuck my head in and announced myself. An officer shouted for the investigator in charge of my case and I was soon shuffled to one desk, then another and finally a third one, as he struggled to find a spot for just him and me to conduct the interview.
In this tiny crammed and dingy cubicle, there seemed to be two men per desk, each struggling to do their job. What I do on my laptop in five minutes is laboriously written out by hand on a pad with carbon paper copies. Nothing is ever typed. Handwriting from previous statements is deciphered by referring to others for their opinion. I did not see one computer screen or keyboard anywhere. Out of curiosity, I looked for a wifi signal. Zip.
I know we live in times when government expenditure is sinful, but there is a price to pay. These cops could double their productivity with enough office space and a few computers. Information would flow more freely and reliably. Databases could be accessed. I would hate to go to work in that place. It is not just counter productive, it is a nasty place to spend your day. I was reminded of my stint in the civil service in 1979, in the days of typing pools. Except that we had a desk each, and the walls had paint.
We throw our arms up at the slowness of the police to deal with crime, but do not equip them with the basic tools to do so. It’s like sending soldiers to the battlefront with spears against an enemy with guns.