In Trinidad and Tobago, the budget of the Ministry of National Security in 2016 was $7.625b.There is a perspective that sees greater fortification through the construction of borders, deployment of high tech utilities to patrol these borders by land and sea, the purchase of more arms and surveillance equipment on more public roads and private communication devices as the best way to address our crime situation. There is another approach that incorporates the development of the capabilities of the security forces while there is a greater coordinated investment in the sectors that build communities and make the population feel safe. Noel Burnett of the UWI Estate Police team builds our campus community, keeps us safer and more hopeful every day.
Who is dat? De Campus police with the American accent?
Sort of. It is a Canadian accent! Noel Burnett was born in Trinidad and Tobago in 1977. In the good company of his five aunts and mother, he was off to Canada as a six-month old baby. In Canada, he developed a stronger sense of Caribbean identity, a love for all things Trini and Tobagonian (where his father was from originally). He also had to remind persons, “All Caribbean people are not Jamaican!” Over the years, he built himself professionally and personally. He returned to Trinidad and began working at the UWI St. Augustine Campus on the 16th August 2010. Noel Burnett has since become one of the most popular personalities at the UWI; I strongly believe that even if Barack Obama had a lecture at Daaga Hall and Machel Montano performed in a fete at the Principal’s Office and these events ran simultaneously, if Burnett had a gathering on a bench at LRC, he would be the crowd grabber! His smile is contagious, his positive energy inspires and his love for people breaks down all the walls among faculties and the distinctions between staff and students with his decency for each and every person he comes across.
People are happy to see him and some media houses are also eager to interview him. In the past, he turned down corporate media houses with their interview requests. In 2014, he was awarded the UWI St. Augustine Campus Employee of the Year for Service – he contributed the trophy to the Estate Police Station because he sees himself as part of a team. I understand him completely. He is a kind of superhero without a cape – always helping and always hiding; the person who delivers a gift anonymously. When asked, “why do you back away from the spotlight and recognition?” He replied, “People do not need to see me, they must always believe it comes from God and it should encourage others to take charge of their lives.”
How does Noel Burnett make us feel? “Gooooooooooooooooodddddd”
Burnett is also the father of five – Annathsa, Justice, J’quan, Bradley, Pearl and an adopted boy, Brad. His philosophy about service did not fall from the sky, I wanted to know about the way he saw the world. He brings joy to so many of us! He shared, “I love people. I prefer to make a friend than an enemy. We are here to learn from each other. We are here to build each other. We are here to help each other. I put this principle first. Make a friend, not an enemy. You show them love from the start because first impressions last, buddy.”
Noel Burnett saved a student’s life who choked on the medication she took before exams, he defended a student against the threat of sexual violence by an off-campus perpetrator. He has also given the best directions and takes pride coordinating parking for events as if he was in charge of a task at the United Nations. But, I dare to say these outstanding performances of his duties are nothing in comparison to his ability to lift the spirits of HUNDREDS of students on a daily basis with his commitment, joy and smile.
Crime is a reminder that Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean are not perfect places. Personally, the implementation of the No Thoroughfare Zone on campus this academic year made me feel that our strategy to keep each other safe is to cut off ourselves from our community and build another border between us and the majority of the population. Nothing is perfect. But some people make it their business and life goal to show us that we can do better and be better. Noel Burnett’s high quality of service to the campus community, personal integrity and gift of joy give us hope. His gold-tooth smile is a reminder that there is something always worth smiling for. University professors can teach us to empower our minds but we must always turn to each other to learn about each other’s humanity.
Mr. Noel Burnett is not the best with smart technology. His daughter recently set up an e-mail account for him. I have to deliver him this blog in print to the Station. If it’s not too much, when you see him, tell him how much he means to you. I guarantee, he will show the love back.
Sanatan, Amílcar. 2016. “The Story About The UWI Campus Police With The Accent Blog, Accessed [Insert Date Accessed]. http://amilcarsanatan.com/story-uwi-campus-police-accent/
UWI Marketing and Communications. Accessed December 31, 2016. http://sta.uwi.edu/employeenewsletter/files/assets/common/downloads/publication.pdf
UWI Marketing and Communications. 2015. UWI Staff Employee Newsletter, July 2015. Accessed December 31, 2016. http://sta.uwi.edu/employeenewsletter/files/assets/common/downloads/publication.pdf