Lennox Grant

Lennox Grant

It’s just possible that “consult” may prove as troublingly controversial as “summon”. Within fresh memory, both verbs figure in depicting encounters or exchanges between Prime Minister Keith Rowley and Police Commissioner Gary Griffith.

Reached abroad by an Express reporter, the Commissioner’s usage of “consult” conveys no impression of physically having faced the Prime Minister across socially distant tables in the Diplomatic Centre. As reported by the PM’s office, that meeting last month had come about through a beckoning called “summon”, a verb promptly and publicly resented by the CoP.

It’s now Dr Rowley’s turn to accept or reject “consult” applied by CoP Griffith, pursuant to the Prime Minister’s idea for advancing investigations. The commissioner evidently shares public curiosity about the $22 million household treasury of the La Horquetta entity called Drugs Sou Sou, that was raided by police.

As of last week, the investigations on his initiative had yielded no satisfactory result. In frustration, he had suspended four officers, two of them senior, and transferred 11 others out of the Northern Division.

Addressing a virtual PNM meeting in Belmont last week, Dr Rowley announced his own separate advances toward plumbing the mystery depths of Drugs Sou Sou. He had sought assistance of British and Barbadian investigators, presumably far distant from the likely contaminating effects to which T&T police might be exposed. News from Tobago last weekend confirmed existence of a substantial Drugs Sou Sou clientele. As cars parked stretching for a mile on Store Bay Local Road, people lined up from midnight to register with a cash-promising operation for which the Guardian reproduced a receipt for $3,500. Police enforced social distancing laws, but Drugs Sou Sou was otherwise undisturbed by law enforcement attention on the sister isle.

CoP Griffith had been taken aback by reports that his officers, without telling him, had returned the $22 million polymer blue-note cache to somewhere they had found it.

His efforts to plumb the depths of the La Horquetta outfit yielded little of promise. This led the CoP to place faith and hope in the Prime Minister’s non-T&T investigatory prospects. He drew upon the classical story of monster Trojan horses filled with enemy soldiers to refer to local police officers who look harmlessly worthy of trust. Yes, he said, he had been consulted by Dr Rowley, and had recommended the swearing in the British and Barbadian sleuths as Special Reserve Police officers here.

Today’s Drugs Sou Sou circumstance confirmed CoP Griffith’s long-standing interest in gaining foreign aid for T&T policing. About a year ago, he signed on former FBI special agent Robert Clark as a Police Service senior superintendent. Agent Clark had led the fight in Los Angeles against gangs, organised crime and drug cartels, and his track record of achievement was cited as breaking some 400 gangs and taking 68,000 gang members off the street. Since his Port of Spain swearing in, however, little has been heard of the American.

Early in his tenure, CoP Griffith met in New York with Donald Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. During his time as mayor, Mr Giuliani was credited with reductions in homicides, violent crimes, gangsterism, and domestic violence. The CoP registered appreciation for the encounter, in the hope of applying to T&T what had made Giuliani famous in the US.

In due course, the Commissioner would also meet in Port of Spain with FBI representatives and officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Department of Homeland Security, the US State Department’s Offices of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, and Regional Security Office.

Assuming he keeps in touch with international developments in law enforcement, the T&T CoP should be a source of learned advice for Prime Minister Rowley. It will be for Dr Rowley, however, to concede that he needed to consult with the CoP before seeking police help outside T&T.

The Prime Minister’s and other official eyes will also be drawn to the cut and thrust exchanges between Chief Justice Ivor Archie and Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard SC. Under pandemic lockdown this year, the law term opening lacked the usual pomp and ceremony and military parade. But CJ Archie’s address retained his normal attention-grabbing capacity, certainly through what came across as a targeting of the DPP office’s shortcomings. The result was an outpouring of inside stories from those preciously high State institutions.

The CJ voiced concern with reduced output of indictments from the DPP’s office, threatening collapse of the criminal justice system. The effect was to trigger colourfully rhetorical responses from the DPP. Here is a personage who is given to language such as “spectacularly disingenuous and misleading”, to characterise the CJ’s criticisms, “the blinding light of the statistics on matters still awaiting trial”, and “disfigurement of the visage of the Judiciary on the criminal justice system”.

In this, DPP Roger Gaspard is not alone. Senior Counsel Avory Sinanan described the CJ’s criticism as “a bit melodramatic”. How can “melodramatic” be qualified by “a bit”?

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