Gary Griffith and PM Keith Rowley.jpg

FACE To FACE: Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, second from left, and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, second from right, at yesterday’s meeting in The Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s. Flanking them, from left, are Deputy Commissioners of Police Jayson Forde and McDonald Jacob, National Security Minister Stuart Young and Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi. —Photo courtesy The Office of the Prime Minister

The Police Service Commission (PolSC) will meet this week and the issue of the Police Commissioner’s conduct will receive its attention.

This was confirmed by PolSC chairman Bliss Seepersad yesterday.

Seepersad declined to say more.

However, a former PolSC official expressed alarm at what was coming out in the public domain from the lips of Police Commissioner Gary Griffith. “The Commissioner has a way of speaking at times that we all consider to be inappropriate, especially for someone in that position,” the official said. Another former PolSC official said there had to be an “institutional response”.

“What is the PolSC saying? The Commissioner’s modus operandi is not healthy for the post, for the police service, or for the country,” the official said.

Meanwhile, a Government source yesterday indicated that a complaint with respect to the Police Commissioner’s recent statements would be referred to the PolSC. “His conduct would be the subject of a letter to the Police Service Commission,” the source said.

The PolSC is the recruiting, promoting and disciplining agency for the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS), including the Commissioner.

“This is a public servant reporting to the Government and this cannot be the way things are done. The Commissioner of Police performs a public service and is an employee of the State, accountable to the people, through the relevant minister. All employees of the State account to the people ultimately through those elected to the Parliament, especially those (Ministers) who are entrusted with the management of public funds and public assets,” the source added.

The source said there was a national debate on the approach to policing with respect to Covid regulations.

“The Prime Minister as chairman of the National Security Council, the body which is responsible for designing and determining policy, responded to this national debate by saying to the law enforcement community, especially the CoP, that in its implementation of law enforcement regulations and policy we expect that you would be fair and equitable in your treatment of all citizens. The Prime Minister made it clear that he could not tell the police who to arrest and who not to arrest. But he said, as he is entitled to, that his Government expects that law enforcement would be even handed because law enforcement policy emanates from the government,” the source said.

According to the source, Commissioner Griffith made an interpretation of what the Prime Minister said on Saturday and then proceeded to fight (with him) based on this interpretation.

“What the Prime Minister says you may not agree with it, but the response could not be tolerated,” the source said.

What the PM said

The Prime Minister on Saturday stated: “It is not for me to tell the Commissioner of Police who to arrest and who not to arrest and how to apply the law. But as Prime Minister I could tell the Commissioner of Police that the law must be applied to protect us in Trinidad and Tobago from those who are not prepared to listen and are not prepared to fight the fight to bring this virus under control... I said to my colleague (National Security Minister Stuart Young) where Trinidad and Tobago is, we expect that there would be firm and sustained law enforcement, for those who believe that the only thing they will accept and respond to is being restrained by a police officer. And as I say that, let me join this conversation now, in Trinidad and Tobago we expect that the law will be applied to every person regardless of race, colour, creed, class, or social standing.”

Griffith on Sunday, however, complained that everything was about race, colour and religion and politics.

Report on meeting for Commission

The Prime Minister called for a meeting yesterday with Griffith and requested that he bring his two most senior officers. The substance of yesterday’s meeting would be transmitted to the PolSC.

Responding to the Commissioner’s statement which suggested the Prime Minister was a hypocrite, with regard to campaigning for the August 10 general election, which Griffith stated first on Sunday and was restated on yesterday’s TV6’s Morning Edition, the source said it was an unfortunate comment because the People’s National Movement (PNM) had made every effort to run a very disciplined campaign, shunning public meetings and only holding virtual meetings with small numbers appropriately socially distanced.

“But to bring this into the discussion and label the Prime Minister a hypocrite was an act of gross disrespect,” the source said.

Griffith on Sunday, in an interview with journalist Dominic Kalipersad, called on the Prime Minister to retract the statements he made on Saturday, saying that he (the PM) had thrown the police under the proverbial bus and suggested that the Prime Minister had gotten worked up over the issue because of race and colour.

The source said the Prime Minister did not at any time engage in any debate about public space or common spaces, “but Griffith has been spending a lot of time stating that the regulations do not allow for persons in common and private spaces to be dealt with”.

“The Commissioner was mildly mandated to treat everybody equally. What is he getting on so for, going berserk and not knowing when to cool down and to end this situation,” the source said.