Police Commissioner Gary Griffith needs to make a public statement about the status of the high profile police investigations that were being led by ACP Totaram Dookhie when he was abruptly sent on leave under rather curious circumstances.
Commissioner Griffith must assure the public that these investigations have not been derailed by ACP Dookhie’s absence from duty and that there is no risk of them going cold.
This assurance is particularly important given that at least one of the investigations touches on Commissioner Griffith himself.
ACP Dookhie was the lead investigator into an allegation made by Cocorite resident Cecil Skeete in November 2019 that Commissioner Griffith had choked and threatened him with a gun at the Four Roads Police Station. Skeete later recanted and within weeks was shot and killed.
Dookhie also spearheaded the probe that led to former government minister Marlene McDonald being charged with misbehaviour in public office and conspiracy to defraud the Government.
That matter is yet to come up in court. It is also understood that when he was sent on leave, ACP Dookhie was investigating a financial transaction of Social Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis as well as probing financial transactions by fellow ACP Irwin Hackshaw.
However, the TTPS has since closed the case and cleared ACP Hackshaw although he remains under investigation by the Police Complaints Authority.
While every police investigation is important, Commissioner Griffith should appreciate the need to assure the public that ACP Dookhie’s absence from duty has in no way compromised these probes involving high public officials. Given the well-documented lack of public confidence in the justice system, the onus is on the Police Service to outline the arrangements that have been put in place to ensure the investigations are not being affected. Public scepticism about the police authorities’ capacity to bring cases to a successful conclusion is based on a long history of seeing major cases being delayed for years before petering out in tame dismissals for a variety of reasons within the TTPS itself, including transfer and retirement of investigating officers, loss of files and disappearance of evidence, the most notorious of which was the cocaine that was reportedly eaten by station rats.
Especially in matters involving high public officials including the commissioner himself, every care must be taken to avoid the perception of any kind of interference that could disrupt the investigative process.
We recognise by now that Commissioner Griffith is not a leader who enjoys being asked to account. This newspaper has regularly found itself on the wrong side of his temper by asking questions that he does not believe should be asked of him. Nonetheless, our constitutional responsibility requires that we hold public officials to account and demand transparency.
We keep hoping that Commissioner Griffith will come to understand the value of being challenged and of being held to account in the public interest and in the interest of instilling public confidence in him and the TTPS.
With yesterday’s very public taking-in of ACP Dookhie for questioning by the police, Commissioner Griffith must not delay in allaying public concern about the future of the cases in which his lead fraud investigator was key.