Saturday 28 November, 2020

Griffith defends position on Bayside bash, awaits clarity from Gov't

Photo: Gary Griffith. Credit: TTPS.

Photo: Gary Griffith. Credit: TTPS.

Police Commissioner Gary Griffith is calling on Government to provide clarification on COVID-19 regulations to avoid any future “sticky” situations.

Griffith made the call following collective outrage from citizens after a party at Bayside Towers, Cocorite where attendees were let off with a warning.

In this regard, citizens have complained over perceived discrimination when it comes to police shutting down COVID-19 parties on private property in breach of regulations on gatherings.

In response, the Police Commissioner said there have been too many instances in which the enforcement of law appears as uneven to the public and this could easily be resolved with clarity from Government.

He noted: “The most recent public debate pertains to the issue of public versus private property/spaces and should the public health ordinance relate to both spaces. This is further exacerbated by the underlying issues of perception of bias, as it pertains to class, location, social strata, and race.”

The Commissioner said the situation has become stressful for officers who are left to interpret the regulations, and have now found themselves exposed to the public's ire. He said it’s undermining officers’ morale at the “worst possible time”.

Offering some clarity of his own, Griffith said the Police Service operates within the parameters of the law.

He said it is the job of the police to enforce the law and not to “interpret, correct, adjust or rectify the law”.

The Top Cop also addressed concerns of unfair treatment of “zessers”.

He said: “As it pertains to the debate stating ‘but they charged other persons [zessers] on private property’, be advised, I have spoken with every Divisional Commander, and none of them has shared any occasion where they charged anyone for breach of the COVID 19 Regulations at their private residences. Persons were dispersed or given warnings – as was done in the current case of interest.”

He also advised that there is no ambiguity when it comes to the definition of public spaces.

Griffith explained: “Where a private residence is, however, used for the hosting of a public, ticketed event, this becomes a public space, and the regulation charges will be implemented, and charges laid.”

To those whose interpretation is that they can host a party on their private property and police cannot intervene, Griffith sought to appeal to their better judgement and called on them to support police in their efforts to enforce the regulations.

“We have now also heard from a number of quarters ‘well that means I am going home to host a big party and no one can do me anything’ – please be reminded that the intent is not to stop anyone from enjoying their freedoms, it is to support the Public Health Regulations, as such, if anyone takes it upon themselves to host such within their private spaces, the responsibility of the Public Health fallout will rest squarely upon yours and your guest’s shoulders,” he said.

The Police Commissioner said there have been numerous instances of people being found in breach of the regulations in public spaces and they were let off with warnings, but according to him, this was not widely highlighted by news media.

He described the current outcry as “unfortunate” stating that people are looking on at the unfolding situation through the lens of ‘us’ and ‘them’.

He appealed to Government to provide clarity on the regulations moving forward, again stressing the challenge that the “variations of interpretations” presents for law enforcement.

Griffith said interpretation of the regulations supported by public awareness campaigns, and simple citizen responsibility would ensure this clarity.

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