The police hands’ are tied.
They cannot “lock down” the country and enforce the Public Health Regulations both in public and private domains.
This is according to Police Commissioner Gary Griffith who yesterday reiterated the position he has been making since Sunday the police do not have powers to arrest people on private property for breaching Covid-19 public health regulations .
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday met with Griffith and acting Deputy Commissioners of Police Jason Forde and McDonald Jacob as well as Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and National Security Minister Stuart Young at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s.
Speaking to the Express by phone hours after the meeting, Griffith said the focus was on moving forward and how best they can deal with the present crisis.
The police, he said, are in a difficult position of not being able to deal with enforcing the regulations in private property because “we do not have that authority”.
The top cop said he met with the AG and Young after the meeting to see what can be done.
“The most we can do is to continue to do what we are doing which is to warn persons, to intervene and to try to get persons to disperse from that property if it is we see that they are breaching the regulations. However, it is a very delicate situation because what we do not want is for a police officer to abuse such a situation of Section 133 which is what I’m very concerned about,” he said.
He said police cannot interfere in the constitutional rights of citizens.
“There is a thin line, suppose somebody decides to have a home party and invite ten of their family members and then there’s somebody who decide to invite ten friends over and they decide to have a wild party,” he said, adding this is not a breach of the regulations.
Griffith said only if the person has a cover charge for a gathering that is open to the public then the police then take action.
Asked what will be the solution going forward to deal with gatherings on private property, Griffith replied: “Persuasion, warning, trying to disperse the crowds, trying to look at EMA regulations, there are a lot of avenues external to actually arresting but we just cannot arrest because we do not have the authority to do so in private property if they breach the regulations.”
Griffith reiterated that the police could not take action with the Bayside party because it is private property.
“With the Bayside situation there was no way the police could have arrested them, if they did those people could have sued the State and won. You can’t arrest them for breaching health regulations in private property,” he said.
However, Griffith said there is an ongoing investigation on certain persons who were at that event.