The T&T Police Service (TTPS) is currently being bombarded by many questions from members of the public on what they can and cannot do during the State of Emergency.
Among the questions is whether people are allowed to walk their dog, or if they can exercise on the streets within their gated communities.
During yesterday’s TTPS’ media conference, head of the Legal Unit Christian Chandler explained that the powers of the TTPS are far and wide and in a State of Emergency (SoE) situation, that gives a certain amount of power to the police.
“The regulations specify that there are to be no outdoor activities. Even if you are in a private community and there are streets running through it, then you should be indoors. You should not be outdoors exercising, walking, etc. People have asked through the hotline, ‘Can I walk my dog?’ That is not essential. That is not set out in the regulations, so you are not to be outside. Questions such as ‘Can I consume alcohol outside?’ No you cannot consume alcohol outside recreation-wise. ‘Can I go to play in the park?’ No you cannot, that’s a no-no as well. And of course, we know going to the beach is a no-no,” Chandler said.
“I think the SoE has been lost to many persons, because we see many citizens going about their business like there isn’t an SoE. So let us understand you would be in the public domain for two reasons, if you’re considered an essential worker and on your way to perform those essential duties, or if you’re on the way to seek an essential service – supermarket, get food, or medical assistance, but outside of that you would be challenged from time to time by police officers who would enquire from you, well what is your business outside,” Chandler added.
With respect to gated communities and whether or not they can be accessed by the police, Chandler replied: “We don’t want to get into a confrontation on what can and cannot be done. The fact of the matter is the powers of the TTPS are far and wide. We are in an SoE, which therefore gives a degree of power to the police. We want to act within the remit law and are asking citizens to abide by that.
“So if you live in a gated community and there are streets that run throughout the community, can you exercise? Run? Walk? The regulations specifically said that there are no outdoor activities. So even in a gated community, you should be indoors, you should not be exercising and so on.
“You’re not to be outside unless you have a specific reason to be.”
Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith said the success of an SoE at times is solely measured on what it was initially designed for, be it to stop insurgents from destroying a democracy or to stop crime or to peg back a major virus.
In this case, he said that the mission of the TTPS is to ensure that all citizens adhere to the new regulations and laws that have been initiated to reduce the spread of the virus.
He asked for all citizens to respect and adhere to the lawful directives made by the police when approached and added that the police ought to respect citizens as well and not abuse their powers.
“I give the assurance to the public that one of the major policies that I intend to achieve is to ensure that there is minimum, in any report, of abuse by police officers during this period. We are not perfect. But we would have learned from our mistakes in 1970, 1990 and 2011 and we will minimise these,” Griffith said.