THE Police Complaints Authority (PCA) has launched an investigation into allegations that Police Commissioner Gary Griffith assaulted Cocorite resident Cecil Skeete.
In an interview at his Port of Spain office yesterday, newly appointed PCA Director David West said the matter which was published in an Express investigative report required a “certain urgency”.
“I came to work (Thursday) afternoon, just after being sworn in. I got my team together and, after considering the matter, we decided to launch a holistic investigation into several aspects of the incident – the allegations of assault, threats, and also the Commissioner’s allegation that there is a plot to bring him down,” West said.
A Sunday Express article on November 24 reported that Cocorite resident Cecil Skeete alleged in a police report that he was choked and threatened by Griffith while he was detained for questioning at the Four Roads Police Station in June.
Griffith was sent questions on the allegations prior to publication of the story but he did not respond.
Instead, he issued a release following publication denying he threatens anyone.
He did not mention Skeete by name.
On November 27, the Guardian and Newsday published an affidavit sworn to by Skeete in which he denied that Griffith had choked and threatened to kill him.
This was contrary to what he told Express investigative journalist Denyse Renne on the record and contradicting what was written in the Four Roads Police Station diary.
The affidavit was not sent to the Express but was published the next day after the Express obtained it from sources.
The Law Association and the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action of T&T (WINAD) have called for a probe into the allegations.
The International Press Institute and the Caribbean Broadcasting Union have also raised concerns about the issue and what appeared to be veiled threats to Express journalists following publication of the story.
Commissioner Griffith said on Tuesday he wanted to bring closure to the issue, adding the media were his allies.
He said the real enemy was the “enemy within” the Police Service, referring to officers he said have been involved in criminal activity.
West said a team of investigators was assigned on Thursday and they will also be looking into Griffith’s allegation of the plot to ruin him.
West’s position had been vacant for almost a month from November 7 to December 5, and the PCA was not legally constituted and therefore certain tasks could not be undertaken.
West said he will have to meet and have dialogue with the Commissioner on several matters.
“Our relationship is purely on a professional basis. When I meet the Commissioner, I am always accompanied by the deputy director or the head of legal or the head of investigation, and the Commissioner always has someone with him as well. We never meet together, face-to-face on these professional matters. The public can be confident we are professionals, we respect each other’s boundaries and we are working in best interest of country,” West said.
Much more work to do
Before his first term at the PCA expired, West wrote to the Attorney General expressing an interest in returning.
He said he outlined successes achieved over the past five years and expressed to the AG that he had further work to continue.
“I was of the view the government was in support of the process and the Leader of the Opposition Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar did not object. It was a mutual agreement by both parties for my reappointment. The delay was just procedural,” he said.
“Continuity is a good thing.”
I (now) have a greater understanding of the direction we need to take the PCA in terms of complainants — getting some form of justice for them even if it is knowing how far their matters have reached. In my new term, I want to institute more training for investigative staff and to further reduce the number of backlogged files.”
He said the backlog was over 1,000 files in 2014 and when he left in 2019 the backlog was 600.