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Soldiers to get arrest powers (with CNC3 video)
Cabinet yesterday approved and confirmed a note by Attorney General to precept specially selected members of the Defence Force to function and perform the duties of police officers. A statement by Ramlogan after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting said the move was to assist the Police Service in maintaining and securing public safety and public order.
Ramlogan is to table legislation to have the measure become law during this afternoon’s sitting of the House of Representatives at Tower D, Waterfront Complex, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain.
He said presently members of the Defence Force enjoyed no powers of arrest other than those by ordinary citizens. Ramlogan added: “Consequently, law enforcement agencies are faced with a number of challenges when utilising the assistance of members of the TTDF”
He said an urgent need arose to formalise, trough legislation, the role and functions of members of the Defence Force when rendering aid to the police and where necessary created the legal framework required to enable members of the Defence Force to provide comprehensive assistance to the Police Service.
Ramlogan said the “proposed bill will give legal protection to Defence Force personnel when they accompany police officers to assist in the detection, investigation and prosecution of criminal offences. “
He said consequently they would enjoy the same rights, privileges and immunities as police officers. “They will have the same powers as police officers, including power to arrest, search, seize and to carry arms,” he added.
Ramlogan said the use of the army in the fight against crime was not new as soldiers have been accompanying police officers on raid and joint patrols during the last decade. He recalled that under the previous government, soldiers were also drafted into SAUTT to assist the police in the detection and investigation of serious crimes.
Ramlogan said: “This legislative measure will augment and increase the capacity of the Police Service and house such an initiative in a proper legislative footing.” He said it could also lead to an immediate boost and increase in the strength of the Police Service.
Ramlogan added: “It will also provide comfort and relief to members of the Defence Force who have been involved in the fight against crime by ensuring they are adequately protected in the performance of their duties.
“The Defence Force, no doubt, will exercise these additional powers with the discipline, maturity and responsibility that has thus far characterised their involvement in the fight against crime by way of assisting and complementing the TTPS.”
The AG said in furtherance of this crime initiative the Government would ensure that Defence Force personnel would be trained in areas such as police practice and procedure, investigations, law and court process to ensure they were properly equipped to undertake their duties alongside police officers.
He said the Government wanted to ensure while members of the Defence Force were to be placed on an equal legal footing and benefit from the same powers that police officers enjoyed while actually engaging in operations with the police, they would not be permitted to embark on policing exercises on their own.
He said members of the Defence Force would be afforded the necessary protection in carrying out functions with the Police Service.
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