Anyone thinking about assaulting a police officer, like the man seen slapping an officer in a recent video, will be in for shocking consequences. That was the warning from Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith yesterday following an incident in Port-of-Spain that was filmed and widely shared on social media.
The Commissioner said in two months every police officer will be armed with a taser or pepper spray as the T&T Police Service (TTPS) is expanding its use of non-lethal force to combat criminal behaviours.
The video shows a police officer picking up a piece of paper that fell on the road. The officer folds it and approaches a man sitting on a chair at the corner of George Street and Queen Janelle Commissiong Street in Port-of-Spain. In the background, someone is heard saying: “The man fling away the ticket.”
The irate man begins pointing his finger, saying: “We will deal with that at an appropriate time.”
As the officer stands before him, he says: “Excuse, do not bring that by me, please. I am asking you. You do not know whose own is that. You pick up something on the road? I am asking you.”
As the man got off the chair, the officer held him by his shoulder. He responded by slapping the officer in his face.
“Shoot me and kill me,” the man said as other officers surrounded and eventually arrested him.
Commenting on the incident, Griffith warned that police offices will no longer engage in lengthy standoffs with people who behave violently towards them.
“Similar to the very foolish man who decided to strike the police officer, it has become a habit of retaliation by citizens when being arrested. Your police officers, whilst trying to be calm and patient, will no longer be involved in these long physical unwarranted confrontations.
“Maybe a year ago the officer might have limited options because to use a firearm in such circumstances would be excessive use of force. Now, due to the distribution of hundreds of taser guns and pepper spray and one being issued to every officer in two months, these confrontations will be very short,” Griffith said.
“Pepper spray may make one never want to put pepper in their doubles for a long time and tasers would be a shocking experience, all readily available for officers to use on those who want to retaliate. So I would plead with all, that when arrested, comply and then complain. Do not retaliate.”
Commissioner Griffith, who returned to work on Thursday after some time in quarantine following a vacation abroad, said his first order of business is to ensure that people adhere to the Public Health Ordinance regulations. He plans to visit high visibility areas such as beaches and bars where people continue to gather in large numbers.
Griffith said he noticed that citizens seemed relaxed with the reduced COVID-19 positive cases, and despite pleas and warnings, a large number of people still do not wear masks in public. He said it came to his attention that thousands gathered on beaches last weekend and breached the law that mandates the wearing of masks in public.
He said he had noted numerous social media posts showing people without masks in public as well as large groups congregating outside bars, particularly in St James, Woodbrook, and Carenage.
Within the past two months, police issued more than 1573 tickets and arrested 78 persons for beaching the Public Health Ordinance (CoViD-19 Regulations) in the nine police divisions. On Tuesday, Eastern Division police ticketed 21 people for not wearing face masks in Sangre Grande. They were among 52 persons penalised for various offences during a road check exercise.
On Friday evening, Griffith led foot patrols through downtown Port-of-Spain. He said people wore their masks unless they were eating, drinking or smoking.
While patrolling in Woodbrook, St James and areas in west Trinidad, he did not see repeats of previous incidents involving many people gathered on the pavement outside bars.