COMMISSIONER of Police (CoP) Gary Griffith said there could be 100,000 criminal gang members in TT in a few years, if steps were not taken to “nip it in the bud.” He also said, while the “one-shot-one kill policy” applied to officers facing life-threatening situations, Griffith said officers would be trained in minimum-force tactics in other situations. He made these statements to members of the National Security Joint Select Committee (JSC) at Tower D of the Port of Spain International Waterfront Centre yesterday.
The CoP said there were 5,000 to 10,000 gang members in TT who were catalysts in 570 murders which happened last year. He estimated 75 per cent of those murders were gang-related. Griffith said there was possibility of children between ten and 14 years wanting to “imitate their big brothers, their fathers, their friends” and join criminal gangs. Griffith said the police would be employing a combination of hard and soft tactics to prevent these people from joining gangs. The latter, he said, will include an initiative called “street talk” which has been successfully been used by other law enforcement agencies such as the New York Police Department.
Reiterating his defence of his “one shot one kill” policy, Griffith said police officers in the line of hostile fire must protect themselves first, if they are to protect citizens.
“There is a war out there.” Griffith said 40 police officers had been killed in the line of duty. JSC chairman Fitzgerald Hinds agreed with Griffith. He disclosed that a man recently described his community as a war zone. Griffith explained that minimum-force options would see police officers using verbal persuasion, batons, pepper spray and tasers as a means of descalating certain situations. If these tactics fail, Griffith said the firearm would be the option of last resort. Griffith said police officers do not have the skills of Keanu Reeves’ Matrix character to evade or stop bullets in mid-flight.
He also said there was a difference between one shot, one kill and shoot to kill. Noting 2,000 police officers were needed to guard the 77 police stations in TT, Griffith said steps would be taken to get those officers out on the streets and have civilians perform the Police Service’s administrative duties. Griffith said there were regular meetings between the police and the Police Complaints Authority.about complaints against officers. Saying the PCA had 135 such reports before it, Griffith said the service did not protect officers who operated outside of the law. Griffith also said this country’s witness protection programme had been 100 per cent successful, with no one in that programme being harmed.
He dismissed a report about a person who claimed to be held against their will but still did a television interview. Griffith said this month had seen a 33 per cent reduction in murders compared to last January. He was optimistic there could be a 20 per cent reduction in murders this year. “We are angled in the right direction.”