Disturbed by a viral video showing Adelle Gilbert being dragged by police after being shot, Police Complaints Authority director David West says witnesses are already coming forward to give...
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Cops not taking PCA seriously
Police Complaints Authority director Gillian Lucky is upset over the refusal of police to comply with PCA directives to help in unravelling suspected cases of fatal police shootings, saying this has led to a breakdown in law and order within the rank and file of the Police Service. She made the statement during a press briefing yesterday at the Waterfront Complex, Port-of-Spain, as she noted there had been a 100 per cent increase in police killings from the year 2011 to 2014. “Clearly, there is flagrant violation by certain police officers to ensure compliance with timelines and to ensure thoroughness and fairness in investigations,” Lucky said.
She also expressed concern that the detection rate for murders was nine per cent, saying this was the situation some ten years ago. There have been 26 police killings for the year but the PCA is only monitoring 19 as those fell under the remit of the organisation, she said. Of the 19 killings, eight were in the North Eastern Division and six in Central Division. She said co-operation from the police was critical to the PCA’s ability to function properly. She added: “It is only in finding truth that we can ensure justice. Within recent times there have been several entities and individuals who suggest that police officers who shoot civilians are doing no wrong.
“But before reaching such an investigation there must be an independent and thorough investigation. The PCA does not prejudge any issue. “It insists on timely, thorough and transparent investigations by the Police Service. Unfortunately these have not been met by the Police Service in several instances.” Lucky said there was too big a delay between the time of the shootings and when the PCA was informed, adding there was also a “great timeline” before critical investigations could be completed. She said Williams also announced that body cameras for police would be introduced in September.
Issues raised with Williams
Among the issues Lucky discussed with acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams was whether a body had been formed to deal with fatal shootings of civilians and police.
Lucky said Williams said while there were initiatives to have such a body formally implemented, the move must be approved by National Security Minister Gary Griffith, who has to take the matter to Cabinet. She said in the interim there was the Professional Standards Bureau of the Police Service, headed by ACP Peter Reyes. On providing the PCA with greater details, Lucky said the PCA was given the assurance that would be done. Regarding legal advice, Lucky said the PCA had hired a lawyer who would be dealing with all the information and intelligence with respect to police killings. She said the PCA also recommended that the body be informed when a police killing occurred so it could also visit the scene in a timely manner.
Glaring examples of disrespect
In making reference to several matters, some dating back to before the PCA was established in December 2010, Lucky said that was important to show the lag in the submission of investigative files by the police to the PCA.
Lucky made reference to four specific cases:
• Christopher Greaves was killed in a shooting involving the police on September 1, 2013. One version was that Greaves had a soda or bottle in his hand and was shot dead by police on patrol.
Police claimed Greaves had a gun and shot at them. Lucky said they made a request for the report since January 27, 2014. She said the PCA visited the scene shortly after Greaves’s killing and when the initial file was requested critical documents were missing, including a UK report which tested the recovered gun. “As there was no forensic evidence to support one version to the other, this particular piece of information was deemed critical by the PCA. To date the PCA is not in possession of that scientific finding with respect to the firearm. “Further, the statements of three of the police officers are dated September 6, 2013 and while some might consider that acceptable, with respect to the fourth officer involved in the matter, that statement was dated October 1, 2013,” Lucky said. Describing this as unacceptable, Lucky said Standing Order 4016 mandates immediate reports be made when police were involved in shootings.
• The shooting death of Police Constable Anil Persad was also brought to the fore. He was killed while on duty on May 12, 2011. Lucky said almost two years after Persad’s death the PCA had requested “yet again” the name of the investigating officer and a copy of the file. “We had written in November of 2012 and in January of 2013 and we received no response. “On January 13 , this year, we sent a letter to the police commissioner in which we had heightened this particular matter and several other matters which the PCA remained waiting to get responses,” Lucky said.
• Naim Dean, 21, was shot dead by a Special Reserve Police officer (SRP) on April 11, 2014, in Glencoe. Lucky said from the day of the killing to June 4, 2014, no statement was provided by the police involved in the incident. She said on Tuesday she was told that the investigator in charge of the probe did “eventually” receive a statement from the SRP. “When I spoke to the police officer in charge of the investigation, he informed me he was in possession of the statement and it is dated June 4, 2014 and the police investigator received it only last Friday. “This is only after some two months without any explanation given to the PCA that this particular officer gave his version of what occurred. Only minutes before I came into the room to address the media did I receive a copy of that statement,” Lucky said.
• George “Ozzie” Ashby was shot and killed by police on January 23, 2009. Lucky said on January 7, 2010, a magistrate ordered an inquest but to date none was held. “The PCA took on this matter, eventually tracked down the police file, was able to speak to the investigating officer and was able to confirm that up to early this year, the file had not been sent to the court so that the inquest could begin... that is not justice,” Lucky added.