Gary Griffith

Gary Griffith.

Police Commissioner Gary Griffith has really gone on vacation this time.

Griffith flew out yesterday to Ireland, where he will undergo a medical check-up.

A release from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) stated that the Commissioner will be out of the country until October 31.

It stated that, in his absence, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Intelligence and Investigations), McDonald Jacob, will act as Commissioner of Police.

“While abroad, Commissioner Griffith will undergo a medical check-up,” the release stated.

Griffith’s wife Nicole and son are currently in Ireland.

The Police Service Commission also issued a release yesterday stating that Griffith was proceeding on vacation leave from October 16 to November 2, 2020.

The release also stated that McDonald Jacob, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Ag), will act in the office of Commissioner of Police for the period.

Top cop blocked 

On September 29 Griffith had indicated he was going on vacation to Ireland for one month.

It would have been the first time Griffith was to take a vacation since being appointed top cop in August 2018.

However, on October 2 Griffith held a news conference where he announced he was cancelling his vacation.

He also issued a verbal and written apology to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley for comments he had made following the Bayside Towers incident.

The Express had reported then that Griffith was blocked from proceeding on vacation and that a directive went to the Minister of National Security that it was “not appropriate given what is happening in the La Horquetta matter and the TTPS (Trinidad and Tobago Police Service) and the requirement to deal with this situation, it is not appropriate for the Commissioner to proceed on leave out of the country at this time”.

The La Horquetta matter referred to was the police raid on Drugs Sou Sou (DSS) during which $22 million was seized and returned a day after.

The Express also exclusively revealed video images of a member of the Special Operations Response Team (SORT) which conducted the raid stuffing a package into his clothing.

Different strokes 

At the October 2 news conference, Griffith stated that he had cancelled his vacation as “it may not be the right time for me to go on vacation...because of the present situation that is ongoing as it pertains to a very serious investigation that may involve senior officers in the TTPS and the TTDF, it may not be the right time for me to go on vacation”.

TTPS regulations 83:2 states: “Vacation leave in the case of the Commissioner of Deputy Commissioner shall require the approval of the minister”.

Under this regulation, by letter dated September 25 to National Security Minister Stuart Young, Griffith had applied for 21 days’ vacation from October 2 to November 1, 2020.

The Prime Minister has made a complaint against Griffith which is currently before the Police Service Commission.

It involves comments made by Griffith in response to remarks made by Rowley.

Rowley had during a Ministry of Health Covid-19 news conference said it could not be a case of different strokes for different folks, and that he expects “serious and sustained law enforcement” with respect to the Covid-19 regulations.

The two men were at loggerheads over whether police could have intervened on private property at Bayside Towers where people were said to be in breach of the Covid-19 regulations.

“He does not have a concern when we release 27 persons who actually broke the law in Sea Lots (an underprivileged neighbourhood on the outskirts of the capital), swimming in a public place, escaping and trying to evade police captivity, that shows hypocrisy, that is not democracy,” Griffith said at the time.

In his apology, Griffith said while he still stands by the spirit of his comments, he acknowledged that his delivery was unsavoury.

“Even though the message was accurate, how the message went about became lost because of how I said it. It came from my strong degree of passion, but again that is no excuse, it was completely unacceptable. I apologise to the country for the comments that I made,” he said.

The Commissioner said despite seeking to ensure that the constitutional rights of citizens were upheld, he understands that his comments were inappropriate.

I wasn’t ‘summoned’ 

There was also contention with respect to Office of the Prime Minister using the word “summoned” to indicate that Rowley held a meeting with Griffith and other law enforcement officials following this incident.

Griffith took umbrage to the use of the word “summoned” in the official release from the Office of the Prime Minister.

Griffith immediately issued his own release, denying that he was “summoned”.

He doubled down on his positions on September 15 in another interview saying, “This is not a plantation” and “Massa Day done”, as he reiterated that no politician could summon him.

He asserted his right to clarify the “misconceptions” created by the Prime Minister’s statement and argued that he (Griffith) would not be “bullied, pushed and pressured”.