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Cops in search warrant video acted lawfully
A video on social media of police officers breaking the window of a woman’s Princes Town home to search for arms and ammunition has prompted both praise and condemnation for the officers.
In the video, the police were heard asking the woman to open her house but she refused saying she wanted to see the warrant. The police in the video identified themselves and asked the woman to give them access. She again refused and complained that the police did not immediately identify themselves.
In an interview with the T&T Guardian on Thursday, the home owner admitted to seeing the warrant, saying, “It was pushed in my face and it did not have an address.
“This is why I did not open the house for them. They smashed the window panes and used a bucket to climb through the window and into the house. I kept telling them that the person they were looking for did not live there. They break the wardrobe and cut the burglar proof.”
However, Southern Division Snr Supt Zamsheed Mohammed said once a warrant is signed by a competent authority police can enter premises and execute searches.
“A search warrant or an arrest warrant gives the police lawful authority to enter the premises by force if necessary, but that force should be reasonable, taking into consideration all the circumstances present at the time. The warrant gives the police that authority,” Mohammed reiterated, adding the warrant was supposed to have an address.
Saying he saw the Whatsapp video, Mohammed said once a home-owner denies entry upon seeing a warrant, police can enter the house using force. He noted, however, that any citizen who thinks the police acted unprofessionally or unjustly could take legal recourse or contact the Police Complaints Authority.
Mohammed said he had not received any official complaint from the home owner, but having seen the video he will appoint an investigator to conduct investigations into the incident.
“We are also asking the public to be cooperative so that police could carry out their duties and functions to ensure that all of T&T is safe,” Mohammed added.
Also contacted yesterday, TTPS communication manager Ellen Lewis confirmed Mohammed’s account of the process involving search warrants. She also reminded the public it is an offence to obstruct officers in the lawful execution of their duties.
He commended his team for the recent crime sweep, saying 10 firearms were recovered last week, nine the week before and six seized over the past seven days.
“This brings a total of 159 firearms for this year, the highest number recorded in all police divisions in the country. This speaks volumes about the amount of firearms on the streets and we will urge all officers to diligently continue their efforts within the parameters of the law,” Mohammed said.
Meanwhile, PCA head David West also said home-owners should cooperate with the police once a search warrant is presented. He said if entry is denied, the police have the authority to enter the property.