Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith says the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) cowered to public pressure by issuing a release which called for the suspension of the police officers involved in the shooting deaths of Morvant residents Joel Jacobs, Israel Clinton and Noel Diamond last month.
However, he is also set to order 1,000 body cameras so that his officers can record their activity so they can defend themselves against false allegations when they arise in the course of their duties.
On Monday, the PCA said in a release that based on its findings, the officers should be suspended. However, Griffith said the findings should have been sent to the TTPS before such a public statement. (See editorial on page 12)
“My concern is that you do not send something to the media to escalate sensationalism before it gets to my desk. And then when you do it out of common courtesy to explain the findings and don’t just give a recommendation to the police,” said Griffith.
“To me, it can be perceived as a get out of jail free, I pass the buck I hand it over to you so no one could blame me.”
Griffith, however, confirmed that he had taken the officers who had fired their weapons during the exchange off both operational and administrative duty. Guardian Media understands that seven officers are being probed in the incident.
“Based on the findings now of the PCA, what I have done is to ensure that all of the police officers who are involved in firing their weapon at that point, they would not be on administrative or operational duty with immediate effect,” he said.
“It does not mean that they are labelled as being on suspension or they’re culpable for or we see them as being a suspect. That would be inappropriate. When the findings from the PCA come to me, then we will know if we take further decisive action or the officers will return to full duty.”
Griffith said a suspension could only be fully warranted if it was clear the officers were in the wrong.
He also confirmed 1,000 body cameras have been ordered for his officers.
“The reason I want to push for body cameras more than anyone is for when my police officers are wrongfully accused, you know by the lady in the towel who makes the accusation because we do know they have bionic eyes that see through walls and around corners,” he said.
“Police can now use this as evidence to protect themselves when wrongfully accused.”
Griffith confirmed that Task Force officers will be required to wear the body cameras in the future.
“These body cameras will be issued to all police officers in the Task Force, especially in the five major divisions, as soon as we acquire it. Port-of-Spain, Western, Northern, North Eastern and Central. And the body cameras will be mandatory and placed in regulations to ensure that any officer that comes out on a patrol, he must immediately switch it on. So that any officer comes out in patrol it must be put on,” he said.
Just a couple weeks ago, Griffith confirmed that there were 180 body cameras in operation in the TTPS which were mainly used by officers on foot patrol. However, as he did back then, yesterday he stressed the body cameras were limited in their reliability during a gunfight.
“It is not something like someone on the range and seeing everything. But as we stated a few weeks ago, it can assist with audio. So it won’t hurt,” he said.