Friday 25 September, 2020

Top Cop: Protests permitted in T&T once within the law

Police Commissioner Gary Griffith has commented on the right to protest in Trinidad and Tobago after two anti-government protesters were arrested in Tobago on Friday.

This, as the group gathered in Scarborough without attaining the requisite permits to make the demonstration legal. 

The top cop was speaking during the police service's weekly media briefing on Wednesday. 

"You have your right to protest, you have your right to assembly, you have your right to march but we need to understand that your right could never supersede and override the laws of Trinidad and Tobago or the rights of others."

He said the TTPS was not seeking to deprive people from their right to protest but said there is a thin line between having rights and breaching the law.

"You have a right to defend yourself but you do not have a right to kill someone and use excessive force in that defence because that would be manslaughter. You can have your right to criticise but you cannot have your right to slander individuals. You can have your right to voice your concern on any matter but you cannot deliberately discredit any specific group under the Sedition Act and in the same situation, you have your right to protest."

"The comments that we continue to make, where persons have taken this out of proportion to try to say that we are trying to prevent persons from protesting. That is just persons trying to be very mischievous and/or ignorant of the fact of what the law is."

FOIA requests to TTPS

The Police Commissioner has said that the TTPS is bombarded with requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), some of which are a "burdon".

He said as such, the TTPS will provide what is required but will invoke its right to deny requests that fall under certain exemptions that fall under the act. 

"They will ask, from six different stations, they want to get all the search warrants, all the telephone messages, all the books, all the investigative reports, all of the extracts of all property registers from several different stations; then you will get requests being made for CCTV footage of an incident seven years ago, they would like to get the drawings. There is another incident of all the rosters of all the police officers in Point Fortin over a two-week period. Civilians will send a message for 25 different requests from extracts, station diaries, pocket diaries and it has reached the point where, again, we will have certain restrictions to make."

Gender-based Violence Unit to be launched

Commissioner Griffith is assuring that while the Domestic Violence Unit of the TTPS has been disbanded a few years ago, a Gender-based Violence Unit has been reignited. 

He said a United States-based company from New York, was in T&T and commenced extensive training for several days.

"They have assisted us in training; how to deal with victims of domestic violence, how to deal with incidents involving children, how to deal with incidents of child abuse and they gave us several recommendations that we can and will be using to deal with the situation. It will also include having a database for domestic violence."

Meanwhile, Griffith said the Emergency Response Patrol Units will utilise this database as they will have notepads that will have a record of crimes including reports of domestic violence and gun-related offences if a 911 call is made. 

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