Innocent until proven guilty is not the route Police Commissioner Gary Griffith decided to take in the matter of six policemen charged with murder.
The Express understands six members of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) currently awaiting a murder trial have been given the option to resign or be fired.
The six — Sgt Khemraj Sahadeo and PCs Renaldo Reviero, Glenn Singh, Roger Nicholas, Safraz Juman and Antonio Ramadin — were charged with the 2011 killings of Abigail Johnson, Alana Duncan and Kerron “Fingers” Eccles in Barrackpore.
Speaking yesterday at the Police Academy in St James, Griffith responded to the matter by making reference to ongoing protests against police brutality and racism in Minnesota and other cities across the US.
“I will ask the country, suppose one day we have four officers in the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service and they decide to hold down an individual who is unarmed and say, for example, they decide to put a knee on that man’s neck and the man dies. Is anyone in this country saying that those police officers should wait until they go through their day in court to be fired?” Griffith asked.
On May 18, during a TTPS media briefing, Griffith had said: “For the average citizen in this country in any business in the private sector, if you are in prison for a violent crime you will be fired.
“Not in Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, they say no! A police officer, leave him and let him get his pay. So we have $50 million per annum taxpayers are paying for the police out there on disciplinary matters. I have a problem with that.”
However, Griffith’s decision has gotten some opposition from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service Social and Welfare Association (TTPSWA).
Speaking with the Express in a telephone interview yesterday, TTPSWA president, Acting Insp Gideon Dickson, said: “We are trying to reinvent the law and it isn’t done so. We have to abide by the law.
“The association is in support of ridding the Police Service of any rogue officers. However, it has to be within the operations of the law and by following the set procedures of the law.
“It isn’t to say that someone was lying down in their bed and just decided to get up and kill someone. These officers were on duty working and, while executing their duties mandated by the State, persons were shot and as a result there were fatalities.”
Dickson said the association sent a letter to Griffith in response to the action taken.
Additionally, Juman, one of the policemen charged, has taken legal action against Griffith.
Juman, through his attorneys, Israel Khan SC and Ulric Skerritt, has filed a judicial review application since Juman and the other five policemen have not been convicted, Griffith’s call for them to resign is being challenged.
According to the judicial review application: “The decision of the Commissioner of Police to dismiss the applicant from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service amounts to an abuse of power and is unreasonable, irregular, or improper exercise of discretion...
“The decision of the Commissioner of Police to require the applicant to retire from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service is ultra vires his power...
“The Commissioner of Police took irrelevant factors into consideration in coming to his decision to dismiss the applicant and/or ask him to retire from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service viz. 1. That the applicant has been on suspension since 17th December, 2014. 2. That the applicant has been paid whilst on suspension, and 3. That the Police Service is burdened by its requirement to continually pay the applicant whilst on suspension...
“The decision by the Commissioner of Police to dismiss the applicant on the grounds that his services were no longer required was unfair, unreasonable and oppressive since its amounts to a breach of his constitutional right not to be deprived of his rights except by due process of law...”
The application requests “an order restraining the Commissioner of Police from the issuance of any dismissal notice/letter; damages; costs and such further relief that the honourable court considers just.”
The matter will be heard on June 24, 2020.