Gary Griffith

‘Unit a long time coming’: Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith, centre, with stakeholders who attended the launch of the Gender-Based Violence Unit of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service. The launch was held at Police Administration Building, Port of Spain. Several stakeholder groups and representatives of foreign missions attended. —Photo courtesy the TTPS

Police are anticipating an increase in domestic violence reports with the launch of the Gender-Based Violence Unit (GBVU) of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service to tackle domestic and gender-based violence.

The unit was launched yesterday at Police Administration Building, Edward Street, Port of Spain.

In delivering the feature address, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith said such a unit has been a long time coming, and apologised for the TTPS not doing enough in the past to tackle domestic violence in this country.

However, he assured this was all going to change with the launch of the GBVU.

He noted the unit will fo­cus heav­i­ly on do­mes­tic vi­o­lence cas­es and breach­es of ­re­strain­ing or­ders.

Reports to increase

He also added reports were not limited to victims—but those who had information on domestic abuse could bring that information to the police so that the law could act on it, following an investigation.

As a result, he said he expected there would now be a “spike” in the number of ­reports of domestic violence.

“There’s going to be a spike in the number of reports of domestic violence. It would mean that the victims would be comfortable, they would know that justice would be served, that there’s no concern about reprisals. By ­persons now feeling comfortable and secure that they can make a report, the reports would ­increase,” Griffith said.

However, he expected this spike would be just that—a “blip” on the radar—because as quickly as reports were made, he assured they would be dealt with by the GBVU. And he said once perpetrators became aware there would be tangible penalties for their actions, there would then be a decrease.

The unit will begin by comprising three to four individuals per policing division, which could change depending on the district and the needs that particular area would have.

The unit will be working in tandem with the other units in their respective districts, with special assistance from the Emergency Response Patrol (ERP) Units.

The ERP Units would be the first responders, taking details of the case; and once it is identified as one involving domestic violence, it would be forwarded to the GBVU team.

From there, the Unit, which would be trained by a specialist from the New York City Police Department on best practice procedures, would take over enquiries.

Better management

Griffith said he expected response time for such reports should be within five minutes.

“As a result, this unit will provide a degree of sensitivity, confidentiality and trust on how to deal with these individuals,” he said.

He also promised better systems of leader­ship, better management, and a means to measure performance and hold persons ­accountable.

This, he said, was crucial as he noted many persons—women and men—have been badly affected when they went to make domestic ­violence reports at some police ­stations.

“At times, you would hear re­ports that the po­lice of­fi­cer will chase them out of the sta­tion be­cause they are im­prop­er­ly dressed. Or that we have not been able to en­force ­re­strain­ing or­ders.

“How we speak to and how we ap­proach in­di­vid­u­als, and even when we deal with same-sex relation­ships, where in­di­vid­u­als feel in­tim­i­dat­ed and afraid... they do not think they will be tak­en se­ri­ous­ly.

“The importance of this Gender Based ­Vi­o­lence Unit is to deal with all of these ­mat­ters,” Griffith said.

He noted the Police Service would, in the near future, also be establishing a School ­Security Unit, Covert Operative Unit and ­Social Media Unit, among others.

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