One of two homeless men a group of police officers and soldiers allegedly forced to consume alcohol and perform an exercise routine on camera is pleased the T&T Police Service (TTPS) is moving to bring criminal charges against the errant officers.
Malcolm Salvary made the statement yesterday in a brief interview at Regius Chambers in Port-of-Spain, the offices of attorneys Wayne Sturge and Lemuel Murphy who agreed to represent him and the other man for free following public outrage over the social media videos.
His statement came less than a day after acting Deputy Commission of Police (DCP) McDonald Jacob revealed the investigation into the incident had reached an advanced stage and that criminal charges seem likely.
“I feel bad about it but there is nothing I can do because I went through my pain too,” Salvary said.
Salvary explained that on the night of March 28, he and his friend Moses Phillip had collected a meal and were walking towards the empty lot at George Street in Port-of-Spain where they seek refuge at night when they were stopped by the officers.
Salvary claimed he became fearful because of rumours of officers abusing people found wandering at night during the COVID-19 lockdown and acted instinctively.
“I drop to the ground and lie down on the ground because I did not want to get advantage,” Salvary said.
He claimed the officers threatened to arrest and fine them for allegedly breaching the regulations but gave them the option to consume the alcohol, do push-ups and race their patrol vehicle on foot and they complied.
Salvary claimed his compliance caused him to vomit and defecate blood for several days thereafter.
Asked about citizens’ reactions after they viewed the video, Salvary said many strangers approached him and encouraged him to pursue legal action against the State. Through their attorneys, Salvary and Phillip have already started the process.
Salvary, who earns money doing odd-jobs and assisting vendors in transporting goods to their stalls across downtown Port-of-Spain, said like many citizens he struggled to survive during the lockdown, which mandated that certain non-essential businesses close and people stay at home.
“I am a hustler on the street. I am always looking for my money,” he said.
Asked whether he had any suggestions for the TTPS to prevent future abuses of citizens’ rights, Salvary suggested the organisation focus on discipline within its ranks. He expressed hope that the potential charges for the officers would also serve as a strong deterrent against such conduct in future.
“It seems they not teaching them discipline. Without discipline, they can’t reach nowhere,” Salvary said.
Despite his ordeal, Salvary said he still had some compassion for the officers who subjected him to the abuse.
“I have mercy on them because we are all human and can make mistakes. But just because I am homeless that does not mean that they could advantage me and do what they want. I am still human too,” Salvary said.