Last update: 13-Dec-2013 12:16 am
Friday, December 13, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
You are here
Griffith: No militarising of Police Service
Newly appointed National Security Minister Gary Griffith is prepared to take a bullet in defending law-abiding citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. The tough talking former army captain, Senator Griffith, in discussing how he intends to pursue his mandate of bringing the armed criminals to their heels, said he will lead his troops by example. Even though he is not permitted to actually take part in operations of the law enforcement officers, Minister Griffith is sure his strategies will bring the desired results.
Q: Senator Griffith, when are you going to have your first encounter with those bad boys?
A: (A no-nonsense expression at his Abercombry Street, Port-of-Spain, office Wednesday afternoon) Before going into an operation you have to analyse the situation and know exactly…
You have to analyse what part of Port-of-Spain you are going to find them?
You don’t go in blindly before doing anything, and what I am doing first is actually getting an understanding of the law enforcement. I am not supposed to be involved in operations, but the only way to lead is by example. I cannot physically go after those people, I do not have the authority.
Wouldn’t your previous position in this administration, security adviser to the Prime Minister, have afforded you that opportunity?
No. As the National Security adviser my role and function was specifically to find the best anti-crime initiative and policy. This is now something different, this involves understanding human resource concerns, looking after the requirements of law enforcement officials.
So the operations of the Police Service did not come under your purview?
No. Then I would have been stepping on the toes of the Minister of National Security, and I worked directly with the Prime Minister who was the chair of the National Security Council.
Minister Griffith, given the critical stage at which the crime problem has reached, do you think you have the time to get this cancer under control?
(Crosses his legs and sinks into a pensive mode) We are already behind the eight ball (A pool game term depicting difficulty in hitting that ball), and that is the situation we are in and we need to step forward.
Senator Griffith, exactly what have you been doing since assuming this office which is arguably the most difficult job in TT right now?
Well, having meetings with the various law enforcement officials, groups, organisations, individuals as well as starting to put the ant crime initiatives in place. My approach might be awkward and radical but it is different.
Senator, in your initial comments on assuming office you spoke of adopting a hands-on approach and it was in that context I asked the first question, although it was made in jest.
Ok. We cannot be in a situation where as the minister I am just in the office and expecting to get crime statistics every day and expect the situation to go down. I need to be right there shoulder to shoulder with the law enforcement officials, looking at what is happening, trying to see what best we can do to keep improving on a daily basis.
You also plan to reintroduce the system of paid informers, something that we have not been hearing of at all over recent years.
Yes. It is unacceptable for example, 600 people could be members of a gang and we don’t have one of those individuals as an informant.
You intend to infiltrate those gangs as much as possible?
Definitely. There are specific operational plans to get inside there...getting that information, and then the police would have the intelligence to get the proper evidence which would lead to arrests and convictions.
How do you intend, Minister Griffith, to restore that confidence in the general public?
If the public has lost that trust the police will not get the vital information required, and this is very unfortunate. But we are going after the rogue elements in the TTPS and secondly, looking at proper customer service training and proper public relations of our law enforcement officers, which is lacking tremendously.
How is it possible to weed out the rogues in the Police Service when the disciplinary procedures are just as cumbersome as in the Public Service?
If that is the case then we need to change the system because we cannot have a system that has failed and is continuing to fail, while at the end of the day it is a small percentage of the Police Service who continues to tarnish the image of the TTPS. I am particularly galled by the practice of simply transferring errant officers to other stations...who are to be disciplined for various infractions.
In other words, you are simply transferring the cancer to another station.
Exactly. You couldn’t do that in the private sector, why should this be tolerated in the TTPS where the motto is to protect and serve with pride?
Mr Minister, I recall one of your predecessors, Mr John Sandy, telling me in the conference room just behind us, that he wished the disciplinary system in the TTPS was the same as in the army, very swift. Would you seek to introduce a similar system during your stewardship?
(A cynical chuckle) No. No. And I will tell you why. There is a difference; a police is a police and a solider is a soldier, and you cannot put mechanisms in place to avoid this happening right now. But in the army you are somewhat guilty until proven innocent (A broad smile).
I still don’t see why that system cannot be instituted in the TPPS...
The terms and conditions in both institutions are different; the police have a union and the army does not. I do not intend to step on the toes of the Police Service, but I will also work closely with the Police Social and Welfare Association, and I am certain they will be interested in rooting out the rogues and it must be done in a controlled manner.
Senator, what’s your take on the accusation that the police and by extension the Government are targeting Afro-Trini young men in their anti-crime operations?
Clevon, you know it is a pity that some would sink to that level in an effort to smear the image of law enforcement officers. Who are the people targeting them, who are the people allegedly targeting them? It is petty and stupid by trying to take a racial view on police officers who may very well be Afro-Trinis.
Senator, do you really believe that you can clean up the hot spot areas, particularly East Port-of-Spain?
As long as we put correct policies in place, if we put the correct mechanisms in place we hard-target these areas. Minsters have spent time dealing with the social aspects such as counselling, role modelling that cause people to divert from crime which are important in tackling this problem. However, my focus is to deal with what national security is about; hard targeting, law enforcement, intelligence gathering, deterrent, apprehension, detention, a rapid response and arrest.
The detection rate is abysmally low, is it they are not committed to their task?
No. I have worked with our law enforcement officers and they are second to none, highly trained, and you cannot make gold from stone. We need to provide them with proper tools. You could have seen it at the recent upheaval in the Beetham Estate, the police officers had to resort straight to firearms. In between that you have the batons, tasers, water cannons, rubber bullets, they need these items and not use firearms so quickly, and they must be provided with those items as well as proper training and drill.
You come with a heavy military background, and in the context of some people criticising moves to equip soldiers with the same powers as police, is there any possibility of you militarising the Police Service?
Definitely not. The police know how to police and soldiers know very well their scope of operations, and I will be out of place to try to change the character of the law enforcement agencies.
Finally Senator Griffith, how soon do you think that citizens of our fair land could once again feel safe and secure, whether at home...wherever for that matter?
Clevon, you have left the most important question for last. (Laughs) I have been sending a clear message to the criminals who are making the lives of citizens a nightmare, and that message is that they do not own any part of the country through their criminal activities. I am feeling quite confident because of the plans and policies I will be pursuing that we should begin to see a meaningful change in the next four months.
Why are you so confident?
This is the second time I have sworn on oath to serve my country; the first time was in the Defense Force where I was prepared to take a bullet to protect law abiding citizens. In my position as National Security Minister nothing has changed.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.