Sunday, February 17, 2013

Randolph Burroughs Most Notorious Commissioner of TnT


For the young who may not be familiar with the infamous name Randolph Burroughs allow us to paint a picture of the so called legend. 


Randolph Urich Burroughs
Former Police Commissioner 1978-1987
Randolph Burroughs has probably been Trinidad and Tobago's most radical Police Commissioner who operated during the period of 1978 to 1987. He was known for his fearless stance against criminal elements and was said to have criminals on the run during his 16 year period of power. It was Burroughs who led one of the most notorious covert group called the "Flying Squad", a group of police officers who virtually operated as a law unto  themselves, answerable to no one.  His successes, though questionable, along with officers of the Flying Squad were able to secure folk-hero status with their crime fighting exploits. Raffique Shah, newspaper columnist and former senior army officer recall that in Burroughs heyday, "Criminals were cut down like ninepins. Many innocent people also fell victims to that "death squad", and many more were "framed" and charged and went on to serve time in jail for crimes they knew nothing about." 

Born from the brainchild of Dr. Eric Williams, the Flying Squad was formed in the 1970's in wake of the Black Power uprising. The squad went on to subdue the National Union of Freedom Fighters (NUFF), a group which seemed devoted to sparking national unrest. Many members of the squad were equally famous as the then top cop. Mervyn Cordner, Cecil Carrington, Rudolph Leach, Lance Lashley, Michael Lambert, Thomas Cunningham, and Gilbert Reyes were among the officers who frequently made the news for their encounters with criminals. In those days, most often than not, criminals or suspects were always on the losing end, being captured in some dramatic fashion, or dying in what was always described as "an exchange of gunfire". Their achievements were legendary and Burroughs, knowing his way around the media, kept headlining the daily's. 

To this day, many are convinced that Mr Burroughs was the most effective crime-fighter  Trinidad and Tobago has ever seen.  One writer concluded that based on the evidence regularly published in newspapers and broadcast on radio and television back then, it was hard to believe otherwise. 

At crime scenes, photographers would arrive in time to capture images of Mr Burroughs standing over the body of some dead robbery or drug-trafficking suspect. The official story would be that he had led the exercise, ensuring that one more criminal was off the streets. However, it all came crashing down for him with the release of the controversial Scott Drug Report in 1986, released by the then National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) government headed by Prime Minister ANR Robinson. This Scott Drug Report implicated 52 police officers among them the "Almighty Randolph Burroughs" Police Commissioner. The Flying Squad was disbanded and Mr Burroughs was suspended, arrested and charged with conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to traffic cocaine.

Evidence from secret witnesses and reams of written statements indicated high-level corruption and collusion being rampant and entrenched in the police service and across the political, economic and security hierarchies.  Many officers of the Flying Squad were described as a virtual law unto themselves and 52 of them were also suspended from duty. 

After being charged with conspiracy to traffic cocaine at Carli Bay, Couva, the State’s evidence was secured from Cuthbert “Scotty” Charles, an underworld figure who claimed he saw Burroughs supervising the offloading of a shipment of cocaine at Carli Bay. Burroughs was eventually cleared of that charge. Later, he was charged with conspiracy to murder two wanted men at Lady Young Road, Morvant. He was committed to stand trial, but the case fell apart before Justice Jean Permanand in the Port-of-Spain High Court in 1987. 

Although he (Burroughs) was acquitted, his credibility was in shambles and Burroughs was merely a shadow of his former self. He eventually took early retirement and died on October 9, 1996. It is said that Burroughs died of a broken heart over the ungrateful treatment he got from a country he risked his life for. With the upsurge in criminal activity, citizens ironically wish they had Randolph Burroughs around today, Francis wrote in a newspaper column on the various problems plaguing the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.

For Burroughs, having rose through the ranks from mechanic, then chauffeur, to the highest rank in the police service a legendary crime fighter, his end was described as inglorious and disgraceful. 

Two years subsequent to the court cases against Burroughs, members of the Flying Squad were recalled to duty. However, all did not returned. Some took early retirement, while others worked until the retirement age with two achieving the rank of assistant commissioner of police. 

4 comments:

  1. A sad end to one of Trinidad and Tobago's most prolific figures...

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  2. Replies
    1. With all the bad comments made about Burroughs he was an ace crime fighter and in my view we need another Burroughs and "flying squad" to treat with the type of elements that are now existing. To these elements the Police and Army look like a pack of jokers

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  3. The techniques of Randolph Burroughs is something much desired in Trinidad nowadays to deal with the masterminds of corruption and our wilful criminal gangsters and hardened criminals.Mr Burroughs deserved a medal for his fight against local criminals despite his personal failings.

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