July 2018

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When UWI Estate Constable Mikhail Nicholson was dispatched one evening with two colleagues to investigate a robbery on campus, little did he know that he would soon find himself grappling with a cutlass-armed bandit near a ditch in Curepe.

But the scene had a happy ending for Nicholson and his UWI Estate Police colleagues, and for the two students who were robbed, who were able to retrieve their possessions. For the robber, things weren’t so jolly: by the very next day, he was in the Tunapuna Magistrate’s First Court, pleading guilty to the robbery, and he is now serving a sentence of six years in jail. This incident happened in October 2017.

For his bravery and good work that night, as well as his diligent and energetic work ethic throughout the year, Nicholson recently received an award for Outstanding Performance from the T&T National Security Officers Foundation – an award usually given to State-employed officers. Nicholson received his award – a framed document of impressively massive proportions – on Thursday, May 26 at a ceremony at City Hall, Knox street, Port of Spain.

The award was launched in October 2012 at the Centre of Excellence, Tunapuna, under the auspices of the Minister of National Security, to honour Protective Services staff who have served with distinction as members of the Defence Force, police officers including Municipal, Special Reserve and Supplemental Police, prisons officers, fire officers, immigration officers, Customs and Excise officers, transport officers and traffic or game wardens.

“I am elated about the award. I was not expecting it,” said Nicholson at an interview at the UWI Today office.

A tall, athletic young man in his early 30s, Nicholson first became part of The UWI family in 2005 as a watchman. In 2009, Nicholson became a precepted constable with The UWI Estate Police, after going through background checks, training, and sitting Estate Police exams. A “precept” is a certificate issued under the hand of the Commissioner of Police authorizing the security officer named to act as an Estate Constable. So a precepted security officer attached to the UWI Estate Police has the powers, authority, immunities and responsibilities of any T&T Police Officer under the rank of Corporal, within the estate where he or she works and throughout all T&T Police divisions – he can arrest felons, and take them before the courts to be charged. All estate police officers are governed by the Supplemental Police Act, which says they must be able-bodied, of good character, and between the ages of 18-60.

It’s clear that Nicholson takes pride in his work and he says that working at The UWI St Augustine campus is generally safe, although as in the entire society these days, crimes do happen. He says robbers may often tend to target students or staff when they are walking to and from UWI, especially at night, so students should take advantage of the 24-hour shuttle service which the campus provides.

He enjoys working at a university because he says life on campus is more like a little village or shared community where security officers often get to know the different people who work there, and have the chance to practice some friendly community policing – doing helpful things like assisting if someone has car trouble, for instance.

Estate Sergeant Colin Sealy of the Campus Security Services says that campus security involves providing services to students, staff and other members of the campus community, as well as doing guard and patrols duties, responding to reports, conducting investigations, and apprehending, charging and helping with the prosecution of offenders. He says the most common campus crime is larceny – the theft of property with no violence or threat to the owner. This often involves items that students leave unguarded, like their bookbags, cellphones or even laptops. Robbery differs from larceny in that robbery involves threat or violence to a person, often with a weapon.

“Last year, while crime went up in the police Northern Division (in which the UWI St Augustine campus is located), crime on campus went down significantly due to strategies implemented by the UWI Campus Security Services, including joint patrols with the T&T Police Service, regular checking for UWI IDs and enforcing the UWI ‘No Thoroughfare Policy’, which prohibits the passage of unauthorized pedestrians and vehicles through the campus. Campus surveillance cameras help us solve many crimes, too,” says Sealy.

Meanwhile Nicholson is philosophical about his encounter with an armed robber last October. He recalls the incident involved two students at the Faculty of Engineering Undercroft. A man armed with a cutlass took their wallets and cellphones around 6.15 pm. The students promptly informed the campus South Gate security, who reported it to the Campus Security charge room.

“Two officers and I went to investigate in a vehicle. We saw a short, stocky man matching the students’ description of the robber, by UWI Doubles… He was carrying a black and yellow bookbag. We approached him, just talking, asking if we could search his bookbag…He said no. He kept refusing, then he ran, jumping into a big drain. His machete was stuck down in the middle of the back of his pants – I didn’t know he had it, actually.”

“I had a baton, the two other UWI Estate Police officers had firearms. I jumped in behind him, and as I was gaining on him, like he realized I was catching up, and he started to pull out the cutlass. But I was too close to him so I grabbed the hand reaching for the cutlass. I ended up dropping him on the ground, removing the cutlass, and holding him there until another officer brought the handcuffs. We searched his bag and found two wallets, two cellphones, and some cash. One of the IDs in the wallet matched one of the students who’d been robbed. So we carried him to the UWI Estate Charge Room, fingerprinted him, and then took him to the St Joseph Police Station.”

When he’s not running down robbers or doing patrols, Nicholson enjoys keeping fit by playing basketball, going to the gym, and doing his own workout of push-ups, sit-ups, squats and other exercises. He also enjoys road cycling. His advice to young people considering a security career is straightforward:

“Be sure it is something you want to do. You are coming out to protect people when there may be no-one else around to protect them. Your training would give you a certain responsibility, because people would be looking to you to make a difference when a problem arises.”

Campus Security
UWI, St Augustine
Tel: 662-2002, ext. 82120
Website: https://sta.uwi.edu/campus-security/