AN assassination plot with CoP Gary Griffith as target, involving deployment of foreign hit men using grenade launchers, suddenly and effectively sensationalised realities and possibilities. Could T&T have come to that?
Even after provocative try-it-nuh utterances by the former army officer, now rhetorical gun-slinger, presumably moving around under suitably prudent protection, do local conditions so resemble those in nearby Latin America?
T&T continues to operate under the principle and practice of what’s called the rule of law. Giving expression to such rule, this country relies upon relevant science to build provable cases against suspected wrongdoers.
In outlaw hands, guns proliferate; sources of firearms survive as inviolable mysteries. For whoever seeks illegally to possess one or more, guns are in plentiful supply. So goes a reality of today’s life and times.
Underworld figures star in social-media videos, brandishing apparently advanced guns, and flaunting heavyweight jewelry, even as dental work decorations. Fatal violence, seemingly always just around the corner, has earned recognition as unstoppable out-turns.
Police arrest and charge culprits generally branded as gunmen. The reality, however, despite officers’ sustained efforts, depicts means and lifestyles beyond reach of the law.
Over last week, CoP Griffith opened up, enlarging upon timely perspectives of one in his position. He has been keeping count, citing 527 shootings aimed at police officers over the last five years.
“We will not back down,” he vowed. “I intend to continue to fight. It is a war out there. We will not back down.”
His own is the mind-set of a Commissioner missioned to combat forces mobilised out there against him and his officers, who is also in possession of intelligence enough to profile: “It’s not a gang culture. It’s a gang cult.”
In uniform and armed to suit, he points to his own survival as one who had learned the lessons of the 1990 coup attempt. In conditions of under-preparation at the time, it had taken seven days to suppress the Muslimeen insurgency.
Under his 2020 command, the police, so far from suffering the early ignominy of defeat and retreat 30 years before, employing today communication technology, mustered over just minutes. The newly united rival gangs, bidding to take over, armed with dozens of assault rifles, having planned to “loot and shoot the police”, and destroy property, were rapidly repulsed. Unlike in 1990, army help was never needed.
Still, a fearsome hoard of illegal guns remains in outlaw possession. The forces under CoP command, as illustrated by the three shot dead in Morvant by police last month, are clearly not hesitating to fire in pre-emptive self-defence.
As always, investigations will drag on almost endlessly. The white-shrouded crime scene examiners, will show up, working within their caution tape to collect evidentiary material.
But then, in a pattern leading to unreckoned but inevitable delay, evidence acceptable to a court of law will remain unavailable for use. This was reported in a Sunday Express disclosure that 7,000 cases await ballistic analysis toward pinpointing which guns fired which fatal bullets.
CoP Griffith himself has last week lamented the lengthy delays in securing results of forensic analysis confirming who fired the fatal shot(s). He noted that, some 5,000 people had been murdered over the last decade, mostly by gunfire. T&T thus presents a separate challenge from resort to the USA constitution which allows guns can to be openly sold over the counter with few questions asked.
Down here, sources of guns that end up in bandit hands remain mostly mysterious. The mostly undefended maritime borders across which people and contraband move, identifies as a prime suspect. Back in 1990, however, guns that turned up in coup-making insurgent hands had been, with unquestioned legality, imported past Point Lisas Customs officials.
In a more recent example, discovery in Puerto Rico by US Customs of a shipment of firearms addressed via air courier to T&T should count as another rude awakening. Inside a toolbox originating in Tennessee, six semi-automatic pistols, with nine magazines, had been stashed. US Customs had been wised up by responses from a sniffer dog that had detected the firearms inside a box “manifested as a gift shipment with US$100 value declared”.
Shipment of such fearsome contents had been arranged to enhance some T&T addressee’s illegal armoury. Are T&T Customs equipped with “K-9 dogs” trained and assigned at the sea and airports to inspect parcels that somehow fail to draw properly suspicious attention?
The CoP has evidently also seized upon the realisation that officers also count among those planning, organising and executing serious crimes. He is accordingly picking another row against Police Service Welfare Association leaders who resent his proposed policy of axing police officers charged and awaiting trial for serious enough offences.
Get ready, accordingly, for a confrontation between the CoP and the police association. In this face-off, an annual expenditure of $50 million has been cited by the Commissioner as the cost of keeping charged officers, for indefinite periods, on the Police Service payroll.
Can T&T afford that?