Police Commissioner Gary Griffith came out in defence of his officers yesterday when Fuad Abu Bakr attempted to compare the killing of Michael Thomas during a confrontation with police in 2019, with the death of George Floyd in the United States.
On May 25, Floyd, an African-American man, was killed in the Powderhorn community of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Police had responded to a report of forgery, and while detaining Floyd, an officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes. Floyd eventually died as a result of this act, and his death has led to outrage and massive protests in the US and other countries.
Thomas, a suspect in the murder of PC Nicholas Victor, was shot dead by the Special Operation Response Team led by Griffith in Valencia in December 2019.
In a post on social media, Fuad Abu Bakr, son of insurrectionist Yasin Abu Bakr, was critical of the attitude that police officers have locally, comparing it to policing in the US.
He claimed there was internalised racism in this country, exemplified in attitudes towards citizens by the police and policies like ‘one shot, one kill’.
“The law must obey the law. The police are not judge, jury, and executioner. They must respectfully discharge their service and duty without prejudice and bias,” Abu Bakr stated.
He went on to note that, in his opinion, more training was needed for officers, especially of a psychological nature.
In his post, Abu Bakr referenced a picture of Griffith standing over Thomas’s body, after he was killed, and compared it next to a screen shot of the video which resulted in Floyd’s death.
“Our Police Commissioner arrived for a photo op and stated ‘the man who killed (PC Nicholas) Victor is dead’.”
Reflection of character
Responding to the post, Griffith asked Abu Bakr to train himself first.
“Let it start by trying to join groups that you are invited to rather than storming (an apparent reference to Abu Bakr’s failed attempt to be screened by the PNM last week).
“Someone unarmed being killed by four officers, in comparison to a cold blooded murderer who blew away the brains of one of my police officers and he tried the same two days later and met his fate. And you try to compare the two,” Griffith said.
He then chided Abu Bakr, saying that the post said “so much” about his leadership and character.
“Don’t use the TTPS as an avenue to make yourself relevant. Storming parties is enough. You would have good reason to have issues with the police.
“The branch does not fall far from the tree. You want to compare what took place in Minneapolis to our country? Then go back 30 years when terrorists took over our Parliament and killed innocent unarmed people, including a police officer, in cold blood, just like George Floyd. Let us hear your views on that. Then talk,” Griffith stated.
Victor was killed while providing security at a Kelly Village grocery on Christmas Eve and his personal firearm was stolen.
Days later, as police approached a house in Valencia, they were shot at and they returned fire, hitting Thomas several times. He was taken to the Sangre Grande District Hospital where he was declared dead.
A photograph of Griffith looking at Thomas’s body in the hospital circulated on social media.
Griffith had told the Express following the incident, “I intend to be back out leading such operations. Going after every shooter. To those who want to live by the sword, 2020 is going to be interesting.”