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Wednesday 26 June 2019
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$QUEEZE FOR POLICE

No money for Tasers, pepper spray

Despite a financial squeeze on the Police Service with Government only releasing funds to pay salaries, officers continue to do their duty including this one who stood guard yesterday near the Port of Spain Magistrates Court while high-risk prisoners were being escorted to the courthouse.
Despite a financial squeeze on the Police Service with Government only releasing funds to pay salaries, officers continue to do their duty including this one who stood guard yesterday near the Port of Spain Magistrates Court while high-risk prisoners were being escorted to the courthouse.

THE police service is running on financial dregs because funds are not being released.

Well-placed sources said since the 2018/2019 budget last year, the Ministry of Finance has only released funds to meet obligations for salaries.

Apart from that there has been no releases to the Police Finance Branch to pay for a range of goods and services, most notably the Tasers and pepper spray which Police Commissioner Gary Griffith wants for his officers as a non-lethal alternative to firearm use.

Officers who had medical procedures such as heart and other surgeries and officers who would normally receive vouchers for eye and dental exams and surgeries have been told there are no funds and vouchers cannot be paid. Several disgruntled officers from the Finance Branch who spoke to Newsday said the situation is depressing.

They said repeated requests to the ministry have not had favourable responses. This comes on the heel of revelations last year that soldiers are being fed an inferior diet because of a lack of funds.

Only last week, Griffith revealed that training for 600 police officers in the use of Tasers and pepper spray would begin and the items would have been bought by month-end. Sources close to Griffith said he has been making every effort to secure funds for the purchases.

CAN’T EVEN BUY GAS

A source said, “The purchase of fuel for police vehicles is also being affected, as well as maintenance of police vehicles, police stations, the purchase of uniforms...everything across the board for the police service is being affected.” However, on a positive note, the police have been receiving overtime payments as well as other allowances.

The Commissioner has his own budget, introduced when former CoP Dwayne Gibbs took over. The CoP was given the power to make purchases for the service and meet financial expenses. But in the absence of funds, the Commissioner’s fund of $285,980.100 has not been replenished, resulting in difficulties in running the service.

Sources also said that even money to buy food for horses and dogs at the Mounted and Canine branches is not available and the situation has reached alarming proportions. Some officers are purchasing food for the dogs under their care, from their own pockets. It is not known if the same is done for the horses.

INITIATIVES COULD SUFFER

Yesterday, secretary of the Police Social and Welfare Association ASP Anand Ramesar confirmed to Newsday the financial crisis. “This spells trouble for the TTPS, because many of our departments will become paralysed if funding is not delivered on time.

“For too long we have been making efforts to do without and in a lot of departments have been eking out the operations in spite of insufficient resources. This particular situation culminates in the over recognition that despite all that is being said, all is not well in the TT Police Service.

“Horses and dogs have died previously and in each instance this has not only been a financial but an operational loss for the TTPS. Also the association is aware that gas stations are complaining of not having been paid for a lengthy period, as well as the Wreckers Association are also complaining of not being paid.

“This is unacceptable from an association’s position. We sympathise with the Commissioner of Police, as a lot of his initiatives will suffer.”

Griffith could not be reached for comment. Newsday sent a text message to Minister of National Security Stuart Young but got no response up to press time. Calls to Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s cell phone went unanswered.

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