Griffith on police shootings: Do not prejudge officers
Police Commissioner Gary Griffith is urging the public to remain neutral as it relates to police-related killings.
His comment comes on the heels of a police shooting in Santa Cruz which saw 19-year-old Rochyon King Ashterman and his girlfriend dead on August 16th. The incident occurred just opposite the Empire Bar along La Canoa Road around 9 pm.
In a statement on Thursday, Griffith questioned how so many people saw the police killing but are blind-eyed to gang-related killings.
"CoP Griffith recognizes and is sensitive to the anxiety that exists among the population particularly as it relates to our untenable murder rate. He fully appreciates the tension and concern whenever a civilian is allegedly killed by the Police. The Commissioner encourages eyewitnesses in any such alleged matter to make a report to the Police Complaints Authority as it is the right thing to do. This being the case, he has also taken note of over 200 murders linked to alleged gang members killing other alleged gang members this year only, with the glaring absence of persons volunteering to come forward or claiming to have witnessed what transpired."
Griffith said very few statements of condemnation are made in the public domain on gang-related activity. He said, however, that in the few fatal police shootings, several persons claim to know ‘for a fact’ what actually transpired, saying police were wrong.
He said this is usually followed up with public comments on all forms of media.
The top cop warns that this public condemnation will affect the way officers perform when in the line of duty.
"This has the potential to affect police officers in the performance of their duties, whereas such pressure or being pre-judged, may affect their actions when they are actually confronted by criminal elements who draw a firearm or fire at them, as that one second hesitation, can cost them their lives as well as those he/she was trying to protect."
Meanwhile, Griffith is assuring the public that he is committed to justice and due process. He said any police shooting must and will be thoroughly investigated, both by the TTPS and the independent Police Complaints Authority (PCA). The Commissioner also assured that full support would be given to the PCA.
"Commissioner Griffith wishes to assure that the TTPS would not condone the abuse of power by any officer, but asks that such matters not be pre-judged based on some making public comments."
"Whilst I am a robust defender of the men and women within the service, my primary commitment is to law, order and due process. Each matter would be investigated thoroughly, and the findings would be revealed to the public,"
He also reminds the public of steps being taken to enhance the safety of police officers while simultaneously minimizing opportunities for abuse of power.
This includes body cameras, pepper spray and tasers being included in the arsenal of equipment procured in the next fiscal year to ensure the safety and security of not only on-duty officers but also to ensure officers are operating within the confines of the laws.