COMMISSIONER of Police (CoP) Gary Griffith made the startling revelation to the Chaguanas Business Chamber yesterday that bribes at the going rate of $50,000 are being paid to police officers to fast-track applications for firearm user's licence (FUL).
As he addressed a breakfast meeting at Signature Hall, Chaguanas, Griffith urged businessmen who may be among the 13,000 applicants for a FUL not to pay a cent to get their application to the top of the list, as they would be wasting their money. He said the buck stops with him, and he would adhere to the law in deciding who is eligible.
Responding to businessman Aleem Khan during the question-and-answer session, Griffith said the law is clear on who is or is not eligible. He said it is not for him to deny a businessman or a civilian a FUL because of the fear the weapon may get stolen. Neither is it up to him to apply the New York model, under which an identification card and job letter could get an applicant a semi-automatic weapon because of that person’s right to bear arms.
Griffith said he intends to adhere to the law as it relates to FULs, which says once a person meets the criteria and has done all that is required, that person is eligible to be a firearm user.
“I will ensure that you get the FUL. Unfortunately, there are 13,000 applications for FUL –I have to prioritise. But the point is, this is what causes the element of corruption.”
Referring to exorbitant bribes to fast-track applications, Griffith warned, “Do not pay a cent to anyone in the hope that your file is going to be at the top of the list. What I am doing, based on prioritisation, based on the assessment threat, I am trying to pump it as quickly as possible.
“If all 13,000 individuals are eligible, I will approve all, if not, reject all.”
Griffith said he intends to deal with every single application within the next few months.
He also acknowledge there are bad seeds among the police who are tarnishing the image of the majority of good cops, and he intends to weed them all out.
He said the alleged involvement of two police officers in the kidnap of Natalie Pollonais has caused the public to make "nasty and most disgusting" comments about the entire police service.
He called on the public to spare a thought for the husbands, wives, parents and children of officers who put their lives on the line for strangers every day, the same officers who are called to deal with kidnapping, murder, robberies and other criminal matters.
Repeating his reference to these criminals as "cockroaches," for which he has been criticised, Griffith said the criticism was not "democracy" but hypocrisy'.
He referred to instances around the globe where police officers are being investigated or have appeared before the courts on charges ranging from sex crimes, kidnapping, hijacking, armed robberies, “but I have not heard one citizen (from these countries) say if this is what the police is doing I am not going to trust them. I am going to ignore them.
“We have to check ourselves and understand that the TTPS is not perfect. We have to understand and respect the law and those in authority. There is nothing to be gained by ridiculing the TTPS. I believe in constructive criticism, but how do you expect the TTPS to give their best to you if you are not giving support to them?” he asked.
The CoP praised the 200 officers involved in the rescue of Pollonais, who provided the intelligence, administration, logistics and operational support, without any ransom being paid. The police should be commended, he said.
"We are not there yet, but we are on the right track.”
Griffith said with his appointment, people are looking to him to change the game.
But, he said, “The game-changer is not me. The game-changer is not the TTPS. The game-changer is you (the public)."
He committed the service to providing a safe nation, with the public's support.