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Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Cordner was doing his own thing says former advisor
In a witness statement to the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) former command fleet officer of the Defence Force Lester Rodney Gervais said he was asked by Garvin Heerah, director of the National Security Operations Centre (NSOC), to act in an advisory capacity for the Flying Squad. The six-page statement dated April 26, 2013 detailed meetings which involved Heerah, retired Sgt Mervyn Cordner and several people from various law enforcement units. One meeting took place at Donrich Security Firm at Piarco.
In recounting the meeting Gervais said there was a gathering of about 50 people and comprised a mixture of law enforcement personnel, retired soldiers, serving soldiers, retired and serving police officers, officers previously assigned to the Special Anti-Crime unit of T&T (Sautt) immigration officers and civilians. “When the meeting commenced Mervyn Cordner and some members of the group sat at a head table. Cordner then introduced me to the gathering and in doing so was emphatic in pointing out that my attendance was in an advisory capacity and liaison to give feedback to Director Heerah. “He remarked I had nothing to do with their functions and said, ‘We doing we own thing,” the statement said.
Gervais said when the meeting began he observed different speakers addressing the gathering. He said this confirmed his knowledge that people had different law enforcement backgrounds more so when the female immigration officer spoke in an “animated manner” and highlighted her displeasure over the behaviour of certain members of the team. “She insinuated that an operation of the unit was compromised by the actions of police officers. By this time, and based on what was being discussed, I perceived that the unit was carrying out or engaged in the planning of operations. “It appeared from the discussion that persons were operating as if were ‘real police.’ When someone else spoke, I gleaned that a serving police officer was transferred because of his participation in a helicopter flight to identify a marijuana field,” the statement said.
Gervais said a retired police officer who was referred to as “Sharp” expressed fear of being “rejected” and suggested that he should qualify for the unit rather than the others who were not certain to pass polygraph tests. Gervais said questions were also raised by a Mr Millette regarding pay. Cordner in response said the national security minister (then national security officer) had “put his signature on a document and that everything was being organised.” “He spoke about the acquisition of insurance for members of the unit, obtaining of passports and visas and medical examinations. “He introduced an East Indian person as a doctor who was on board with the unit,” the statement said.
Gervais said he told the gathering that the unit should function as an arm to assist the police with information and should not engage in policing operations. “I made this point because of what I heard during the meeting. I tried to impress upon persons gathered that the police needed to be convinced that they were trustworthy. “I also commented on the fact that the members of the unit should not be making premature disclosures and divulging information, which should be left to authorised persons,” the statement said. Gervais said he also remembered a former police officer speaking about the acquisition of a boat. He said he advised that a boat needed to have certain specification for operations. After receiving an e-mail containing the a price proposal Gervais advised the unit that such a vessel was unsuitable and too costly. “After this meeting I felt compelled to notify Director Heerah that what he proposed to me was not what I had witnessed unless someone was not telling the truth. I got a feeling that something was critically wrong with the picture I was getting,” the statement said.