A water cannon for crowd control will be among $4.5 million worth of equipment to be bought for the police to help maintain public order, said Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon yesterday.
He was grilled on the budget’s $2.32 billion allocation to the TT Police Service by Members of the House of Representatives in the Standing Finance Committee.
Chaguanas East MP Fazal Karim had asked Dillon details about the mundane-sounding sub-head, “Purchase of Equipment for the Police Service”, allocated at $4.5 million, significantly up from last year’s revised estimate of $1 million. Dillon gave details of the $4.5 million, in an almost offhanded manner. He said, “Public order equipment such as canister grenades, projectiles, water cannon, a number of different equipment. It also includes mobile tracking units.”
His reference to “canister grenades” is thought to refer to a tear-gas grenade, smoke grenade or thunder-flash that emits a loud bang and a flash of light, while “projectiles” are thought to mean plastic bullets. Dillon did not elaborate on other devices to be bought as “a number of different equipment.”
Karim later told Newsday, “I was quite surprised to hear the response of the Minister of National Security on the $4.5 million that it is to be used for that. I was expecting surveillance equipment or improved technology to help in crime detection, unless this is an emergent or emerging need for expenditure.”
Karim thrice asked if any money was allocated to build a police station at the hotspot of Enterprise, Chaguanas, but the replies from Dillon and Finance Minister Colm Imbert left the question hanging.
While Karim had asked about Enterprise in relation to a $400,000 allocation to “Supplemental Works - Phase 1 Police Stations”, Imbert merely replied that Enterprise was not covered under that particular sub-head, but did not indicate if it was included under any other subhead. For the purchase of new police vehicles, Imbert said the $1.5 million “development” allocation is supplemented by $14 million in recurrent spending (the same as 2017).
Regarding the $1 million payment of compensation to families of members of the protective services killed on duty, Naparima MP Rodney Charles asked if the $3 million allocation in “recurrent” meant that the lives of only three such deceased officers would be compensated? Apparently referring to last year’s allocation of $4 million, Imbert replied that Police Commissioner Stephen Williams has asked that the other $1 million be transferred to other subheads.