Saturday 4 July, 2020

Gary says no problem, cops will go to court without guns

Top Cop Gary Griffith says his officers will follow the judiciary's rules that prevent them from attending court with their firearm.

Griffith made the comment while speaking with Loop News on Tuesday.

"The TTPS would adhere to the regulations," he said.

Sources say throughout the day, security guards have cautioned police attending court that they are not allowed with their weapons. The officers were also advised that they must be scanned. Commissioner Griffith confirmed being made aware of this. 

In 2015, the Judiciary's Security Unit issued a release informing of its updated standard operating procedures. The communique said no one is allowed to enter judiciary facilities carrying firearms for any reason. It added that in certain circumstances, law enforcement officers are authorized to do so 'in the performance of their legitimate duties'.

This included: 

a) Officers identified as detectives who are complainants or witnesses in matters before the court;

b) Officers in custody of exhibits, namely firearms and ammunition and large quantities of narcotics;

c) Officers engaged in witness protection and;

d) Officers specifically assigned to perform duties at high profile trials. 

Then acting Police Commissioner, Stephen Williams, responded to the rules stating that police must be allowed to carry their firearms in court. Media reports also quoted him as saying that security guards had no authority to search cops. 

Four years later, some officers have raised concerns that the rule makes them unarmed targets for criminal elements.

This, as there have been murders outside of court and even police stations.

On May 9, 2019, police arrested 13 men who were allegedly lurk­ing around the Tu­na­puna Mag­is­trates' Court in con­nec­tion with a plot to mur­der a state wit­ness. On May 2, 2014, Fa­bi­en Lon­don was gunned down outside the Arima Magistrates' Court. Five years prior, on October 19, 2009, reports say unarmed po­lice sought cover as a killer, dis­guised as a con­struc­tion work­er, gunned down mur­der ac­cused Pe­ter Gar­cia in the yard of the Rio Claro Mag­is­trates' Court.

The Police Service Social Welfare Association (TTPSSWA) Secretary, Sergeant Ancil Forde, disclosed that he has been made aware of the issue at the Sangre Grande Magistrates' Court. 

He outlined laws which he says permits police to carry firearms in all public spaces. 

"This is an unhealthy situation given that Section 45 (f) of the Police Service Act, Chapter 15.01 outlines the duty of Police Officers to keep order in and within the precincts of all courts during sittings of such courts."

"Further, the Firearms Act Chapter 16.01 Section 8 authorizes police officers in their capacity as such to carry firearms in a public place prescribed by the President of which the Fourth Schedule of the Firearms Act states that all ordinary Courts of Law are public places."

"Additionally, according to section 27 (2) of the Firearms Act only Police Officers has the power to search a person believed to be carrying a firearm in public place or demand of such person the production of such firearm and licence for examination."

Sergeant Forde adds that the Association is not pleased and intends to call for a meeting with the stakeholders to bring an end to this saga.

"Police officers must be able, at all times to defend themselves and protect exhibits of which they hold safely only for the benefit of the courts."



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