The Commissioner of Police (CoP) Gary Griffith yesterday admitted that it was a “grey area” to use the Public Ordinance 1940 to give police access to private properties.
The Commissioner was interviewed on the issue on the Beyond the Tape programme yesterday.
“It is a very grey area and that is why it is so difficult for the Police Service because every situation we have to analyse it on a case by case basis and that is why we have to be very clear,” Griffith said.
He said the challenge was to ensure that the police did not go “overboard” while fulfilling their duty.
“If we go overboard then obviously we would infringe the rights of citizens, if we do not, it means we would not have adhered to our obligations,” he said.
Griffith said he brought up this issue several months ago during the question of whether the police had the authority to shut down overcrowded supermarkets and banks.
“Yes we can, but that is a public place,” he said.
He said with regards to what the Prime Minister said about private property, “there would be situations where the police can intervene,” he said.
He touched on the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago’s media release which questioned the constitutionality of the matter.
“Every release they make is to talk about what the police can and cannot do. I’ve never seen an Association where every comment is to speak about the police,” he said.
Griffith said that the LATT said that children would be afraid to see the militarization of the police service but he disagreed. Griffith said that it was the criminals that the lawyers defended that scared children.
Griffith also issued a media statement following that interview which carried a similar message.
“One wonders whether those who crafted this statement are aware of the militarization of the gangs, inclusive of the types and veracity of the militarized weapons that they brandish against said law-abiding citizens on a daily basis?” he asked.
“One has to question whether the LATT is aware of the last two very public stores of illegal militarized weapons of war that the members of the joint National Security framework intercepted and removed from said gangs?”, he asked.
“Where is the LATT’s concern about this type of militarization against law-abiding citizens by rogue elements?” Griffith asked.
Griffith directed the LATT to Section 133 of the Public Health Ordinance, which he said “clearly states that the Police has such authority as stated by the Prime Minister, based on certain circumstances”.
“To allude that the police have intentions to simply barge into any home without due process and without good reason, displays the reckless nature of LATT, as this was never avowed,” Griffith said.
“The CoP wishes to advise law-abiding citizens not to be confused by the irresponsible comments made by an Association whose only releases are earmarked to discredit others and tell others how to do their job,” he said.
Griffith said that at a time when relevant bodies should be persuading all to adhere to the guidance and direction of the State and work with the Police, “unfortunately, we have one whose intention seems apparent to do just the opposite”.