Trinidad: Police commissioner orders investigation into ‘police officer politicians’

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(Trinidad Express) – Police Commissioner Gary Griffith says he has ordered an investigation into reports that serving members of the Police Service are now politicians and political activists.

In a statement on Sunday, Griffith stated: “When you join the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS), you immediately lose certain rights as a citizen. One of those rights is to openly show bias and support for political parties. In light of information coming to the attention of the Commissioner of Police, inclusive of what was published in the media today…he has launched an immediate investigation into allegations of a police officer applying and being interviewed for a political post in a political party, whilst being a serving police officer and then being quoted in the media of openly expressing his support and allegiance to the principles of that said party”.

Section 40 of the Police Service Act Chapter 15:01 states “A police officer is disqualified from membership of the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Tobago House of Assembly, or a Municipal Corporation.”

Section 133 also states:

An officer: (a) shall not engage in any activity, occupation or undertaking which would impair his usefulness as an officer or in any way conflict with the interest of the Service; (b) shall not without the consent of the Commissioner, accept any paid employment or engage in any trade or any professional, commercial, agricultural or industrial undertaking, or undertake private work for remuneration, whether in or outside of Trinidad and Tobago; (c) who invests in or acquires shares in any company carrying on business in or outside of Trinidad and Tobago or who acquires any interest in any professional, commercial, agricultural or industrial undertaking in or outside of Trinidad and Tobago shall, within thirty days after his investment or acquisition, inform the Commissioner of the fact in writing.

Section 139 further states: “An officer shall not make any public expression of political and sectarian opinions, and shall bear himself with strict impartiality in all matters.”

Griffith stated that there is good reason for such regulations.

“Whereby any citizen is free to express and voice their affiliation to any political party, when you swear to an oath as a police officer, you lose certain rights, and rightly so, because at no time must any decision, action, arrest or the charging of anyone be seen or even perceived by the public, of the law enforcement institution acting and abusing their authority based on bias through being politically-aligned to any political party.

A police officer holds immense authority, which includes that power to take away the rights of freedom of other citizens, hence at no time, must there even be the perception that an officer can and would use such authority to show any degree of bias in the performance of his duties.

If one wants to have such rights to freely express his/her political alliance, and even to officially join, support, and represent any political party holding any political post, he/she must resign. “

Griffith said that between the period of swearing such an oath, to when you tender your resignation from the TTPS, any such action could be seen as being biased and politically motivated, and also would be in breach of TTPS Regulations and relevant disciplinary action would be taken.

He said: “Even though more glaring than others, this is not the first such instance of police officers expressing their support for political parties. Just a few weeks ago, one officer was cautioned by the CoP as it pertained to him showing open support to one political party and making scathing attacks to the other via social media. He then stated that it is his right to say and support which political party he feels to. It clearly means that there are officers who are not aware of the Regulations in the TTPS.”

Griffith disclosed that presently, another investigation is ongoing of reports of a police officer in Tobago who likewise, has openly expressed his support for one political party, with reports of him trying to influence citizens to support that said political party.

“No Police Service must ever show their bias or favoritism to any political party, whether they be in Government or Opposition, as such an institution must remain independent, and any member of said service who disregards such action, could lead to immediate suspension, until investigations are completed.

With the upcoming General Elections forthcoming, the CoP wishes to advise all police officers that whilst it is your right to covertly support and even vote for any political party of their choice, whilst he holds office, there would be no police officer breaching the regulations to openly support or attack any political party, be it PNM, UNC, ABC OR XYZ”.

Griffith said he had also taken note of comments regarding the alleged reason for someone not being selected by a community to represent them, being that he is seen as “an informant”.

He said “Any community, inclusive of politicians who see “informants” as a source of concern, can be seen as being part of the problem. Based on the newspaper article, and if what is stated is true, the CoP shudders to think that any politician or community with law-abiding citizens would have issues of someone being an “informant”, who would be there to prevent crime rather than cause it.

If this is remotely accurate, it goes in line with the CoP’s recent statement about the social decay of our society, whereby a community is accused of being upset that someone is an informant, not for being perceived as providing information to cause crime, but to provide information to the police to prevent crime and arrest criminals. “

And this is seen as being the improper type for representation by some, as it gives the perception that a cold-blooded criminal or gang leader, can be seen as being the type who they prefer to represent and lead them, said Griffith.

“This is the type of social decay which must be addressed by our nation, as policing alone cannot fix such misguided views” he said.

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