Police Commissioner Gary Griffith has renewed his call for the Government to consider the regulation and legalization of pepper spray as a form of personal protection, particularly for women.
Griffith made the call during a community town meeting held at the New Grant Primary School on Monday afternoon.
Some residents had expressed concerns over the repurposing of the St Marys Police Post and the Tableland Police Station but Griffith assured that services will remain unchanged and the stations will remain open.
Speaking about an increase in home invasions and attacks in the rural community, Griffith said pepper spray will prevent kidnappings and assaults.
Princes Town MP Barry Padarath asked Griffith to give an update on the regulation of pepper spray. However, Griffith said he was not in charge of policy formation.
“The most I can do is give my guidance and recommendations in my capacity as Commissioner of Police,” he said.
He added, “There are things that I have the operational capability to do and I will do it but there are also things that I would need to recommend to make an amendment.”
Griffith said he had submitted his findings and made submissions about pepper spray sometime ago.
He chided detractors for saying that pepper spray should not be legalized because it will get into the hands of criminals.
“I wish that criminals would use pepper spray because right now they using guns. So the concept of saying that they should not issue pepper spray because criminals will get it, then you should ban cutlasses, hockey sticks, ban a brick, “ he added.
He noted that if the pepper spray is registered for use, citizens could apply for a license to use it.
This would mean that proper documentation will be available on any person owning pepper spray.
“Pepper spray has proven to be effective for tens of thousands of women around the world and their lives have been saved because pepper spray gives you a fighting chance to escape and that is sometimes all that people need- a chance to escape,” he said.
Griffith added, “I did the research in dozens of countries and there are avenues that can be used to regulate pepper spray to allow citizens to protect themselves. That will help me to protect you.”
He also responded to questions about inadequate resources for the TTPS, posed by Padarath and Moruga MP Michelle Benjamin.
Griffith said the TTPS was facing a debt of over $150 million, noting that because of the state of the economy, there had been huge cuts in expenditure.
“The Budget allocation for us was just $530 million and that has to pay all the bills. I was able to cut that by $80 million because I was able to look at every single thing and reduce cost because I ran the Police Service as a business,” Griffith said.
However, he said even though $80 million was saved, the TTPS was given $100 million short to pay its bills from the last fiscal year.
“So I went into this fiscal year owing suppliers nearly $100 million. We did not get the funding for the last four months of this fiscal year so we are in debt of $150 million. It is difficult to run a service with dealing with electricity, maintenance, repairs, training, uniform, fuel and all IT technology with a zero budget. I spent most of the time speaking with suppliers asking them to hold,” he revealed.
Griffith said he was expecting to get a financial release from the Government this week.