COMMISSIONER of Police Gary Griffith has launched a new unit which enables officers to use non-lethal weapons like tasers and pepper spray.
He rolled out another new initiative after fewer than 100 days in office at the Police Academy in St James yesterday.
The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) launched its Emergency Response Patrol (EPR) unit armed with new products and technology, which includes GPS and cameras for 85 police vehicles, notepads, tasers, pepper spray and rubber bullets.
At the launch, Minister of National Security Stuart Young said 'the Government is quite aware of the type of fire-power and the type of illegal firearms' being utilised by criminals.
Griffith said GPS on vehicles would not only ensure vehicles aren't stolen (as has occurred in the past), but would also be used to track the location of officers from two new centres.
The proposed centres are the Operational Command Centre and Commissioner's Command Centre.
They will be used for real-time analysis of intelligence.
Additionally, Griffith announced the revamping of the E999 unit to assist with public distress calls.
This new unit will be called the Emergency Call Centre (ECC999) unit.
Griffith said: 'Citizens would no longer have the concern that when they call 999 they have to wait for 20-odd minutes to get a response, and then 999 unit would have to contact a police station to get a police vehicle to respond.'
Instead, he stated this new ECC999 unit will be directly linked to the EPR unit, and it was promised officers would respond in a matter of seconds.
It was also noted the use of notepads on the vehicles' dashboards will soon be equipped with licence plate recognition abilities and will be used to improve aspects of facial recognition, fingerprinting, and will be able to identify whether a citizen has a criminal record via the scanning of driver's permits.
These new gadgets will not be given to every member of the TTPS.
Officers attached to the EPR unit will be the only ones assigned to use the devices.
Griffith announced the officers selected were heavily trained in customer service, offensive and defensive driving, forensic awareness, crime scene management, use of force and conflict, stop-and-search techniques and weapons training.
Griffith strongly advocated for the minimum use of force policy and, as such, the use of firearms should now be used as a last resort.
Both Griffith and Young agreed that by using intelligence with policing, and the utilisation of proper technology, the TTPS will ensure safety for all law-abiding citizens.
The aim of this new initiative will prevent crime and remove the fear of crime from citizens, Griffith said. Thus far, both the Western and Port of Spain divisions have implemented these units.
Griffith said: 'Citizens have been calling for better service from the Police Service, and I assure you that we are listening.'
He also addressed the issue of public protests, stating citizens can protest at any time and will receive his full support, once it does not infringe on the rights of other citizens.
However, unlawful behaviour such as blocking roads, throwing debris and burning tyres would not be tolerated on his watch.