WE SHARE the anxiety of Minister of National Security Stuart Young over Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith’s continued association with former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and urge Griffith to exercise caution going forward.
While Young did not give specific reasons, Giuliani’s role as a key ally of Donald Trump as well as controversial aspects of measures adopted during his tenure as mayor are enough to give us pause.
As Trump’s personal lawyer, Giuliani has defended the indefensible on an almost daily basis since taking up the role. “Truth isn’t truth,” he said in an interview in August when questioned about special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
As this country’s Commissioner of Police, Griffith is one of the highest office holders in this land. Not only does he put his office at risk of being tainted by Giuliani’s politics, but the commissioner must understand he is in danger of being used to prop up the Trump administration via his most high-profile supporter.
Politics and policing should never mix, particularly the brand of politics practised by Giuliani and Trump.
None of this is helped by Giuliani’s track record when it comes to race. Though he is sometimes credited with turning around New York’s crime situation and providing leadership in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack, he oversaw many controversial tactics including stop-and-frisk which disproportionately affected black and Latino people. Several were unlawfully killed by police.
Incidentally, even as police shootings are down for the year, Griffith has had to contend with concerns over whether the figures are still too high. In this regard, it is notable the commissioner recently adopted more measured language in the wake of a shootout this week which saw officers kill three. He said while he did not celebrate anyone’s death, he was still a strong advocate of the minimum-use-of-force policy.
He also said that while he does not support extrajudicial killings, police had a right to defend themselves when threatened.
Griffith’s more nuanced tone reflects the fact that just as all citizens are duty-bound to comply with the law, so too must the police. Officers should be trained to defend themselves using proportionate force.
And steps should be taken to deal with the concerns raised by the Police Service Social and Welfare Association which has called for the introduction of tazers and pepper spray.
At the end of the day, regardless of what Giuliani has told Griffith, the Commissioner of Police must always do one thing: uphold the law.