Commissioner of Police, Gary Griffith. (Image: NICOLE DRAYTON)

While lamenting that there have been over 130 incidents in 2020 in which police officers were shot at by criminals and 55 killed when police returned fire, most of whom were people with criminal records, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith yesterday reiterated that this year has seen the reduction in murders by just over 25 per cent.

In a release issued last evening, Griffith assured that with regard to fatal police shootings, “every such incident would be thoroughly investigated, both by the independent Police Complaints Authority as well as internally within the service.”

He made it clear that should any police officer be found to have abused their authority or committed a criminal act during any of these 55 deaths, “they would be disciplined or face criminal charges.”

Griffith, however, said he had found a lack of balance regarding police officers being shot at.

“The headlines always scream with emboldened fonts, on perceived injustices allegedly perpetrated by police officers, followed by minuscule coverage, if any, when police officers are shot at, almost never with a call for accountability by the criminal element,” Griffith said.

“In the most basic of circumstances, if there is an increase of criminal elements shooting at police officers, then it would be obvious that there would be an increase in police officers returning fire at those who are trying to kill officers. But this seems to be of little concern to some. At almost every police shooting, there have been shots fired at officers prior to these same officers returning fire to protect their lives, officers have been hit, officers injured, police vehicles riddled with shots, with spent shells found on the scene not belonging to police officers, but this seems to be of little concern to some. Is it that police lives matter less than others?”

In referring to a newspaper headline that read, “55 gunned down”, Griffith said he believed that the article conveniently left out the fact that there have been 130 incidents this same year of police officers being shot at, which he added, that is over 35 more than last year.

He said that amounted to an average of a police officer being shot at every three days this year.”

Griffith noted that this has not been made any easier with it now being legal for gangs to assemble, communicate and strategise to commit violent crime, or for those held with assault rifles to be given bail within hours of being charged.

“One can recall the type of ammunition seized by police in the Western Division a few days ago. That is not just for simple crime, but an assembly of firepower that is used for war. The criminal elements have the type of weapons and firepower used in war. The police are therefore engaged in a virtual war with criminal elements yet some seem disturbed when there are casualties of war, when police shoot to defend themselves, by those who try to kill them.”

Griffith said that if there was a concern of police shootings, and rightly so, “then the best avenue to greatly reduce this is for those who possess illegal firearms to drop their guns and stop trying to challenge police officers by aiming their weapons and shooting at them or law-abiding citizens, because these police officers would be compelled to use equal force and return fire.”

“But unfortunately, this is seen as good news. And good news does not sell,” Griffith said.