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Tuesday 22 October 2019
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PCA: We got more Big Yard bullet shells

Director of the  Police Complaints Authority David West. Photo: Sureash Cholai
Director of the Police Complaints Authority David West. Photo: Sureash Cholai

AFTER police investigators had left the crime scene of the police/criminal shoot-out at Big Yard, Carenage, investigators from the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) found more bullet casings on the scene, PCA head David West revealed at a public outreach at Exodus panyard in Tunapuna on Thursday night.

“Two days after, we found shells the police did not find. We had to call the police, ‘Come and check them.’”

He said the PCA gave those bullets to the police as part of the investigation into the incident which killed three people including Naomi Nelson, 14.

Making the disclosure, West called for the PCA to have the right to be informally present at unfolding crime scenes alongside the police.

A member of the public claimed Forensic Science Centre (FSC) officials had told a joint select committee that in urgent cases a ballistics test can be done within six months, as opposed to the six years cited by Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith in relation to the Big Yard case.

West, in reply, said the PCA has no power to order the FSC to speed up, but can ask.

He lamented the PCA does not possess a database of photos of all police officers from which a complainant could pick out an individual officer. He said dialogue is progressing between the PCA and COP towards an MOU.

“We are on the same page towards rooting out corruption in the Police Service.”

Asked what gifts police officers may lawfully accept, such as a ten per cent discount at Mr Chow’s food court, West said such ethics are spelt out in the Police Service Act.

Newsday afterwards asked West if police should be obliged to declare their assets and income under the Integrity in Public Life Act.

“That’ll be for Parliament to decide,” he said. “I haven’t thought about it.”

He said the Police Service Act says what officers may legitimately receive.

Did he recommend any personal code of ethics to officers?

“I think a police officer should not accept gifts where they think that they owe somebody a favour. That should be a no-no.” He reckoned officers should have a moral feeling of what is right and wrong.

Newsday asked about police vans seen parked up outside dubious places like brothels.

“The commissioner has put GPS in all police vehicles. So if they are in a spot that would be monitored, then they could be asked questions, for an account of what they were doing there for so long. If they said they were going there on a warrant, you can say, ‘Let me see the warrant.’

“So I think the commissioner has tried to regularise and make more accountable how officers use police vehicles

Asked of any other measure that could keep officers honest, West said, “To join the Police Service, everybody is polygraphed initially. I think that should be an ongoing process. Every two or three years, they should be polygraphed.

Newsday asked about drug testing.

“Yes, mandatory drug testing. Of course. I think that should be used also.”

In the sitting, a member of the public reckoned the PCA was a toothless bulldog.

PCA deputy head Michelle Solomon-Baksh quashed that idea by citing the PCA’s role in holding officers to account in the 2011 Moruga extra-judicial shootings, 2013 Sea Lots deaths of a mother and children hit by a car driven by an off-duty officer, the police shut-down on the "Day of Total Policing" and other cases.

“I’m sorry you think our teeth are not very sharp. We’ve been biting, but just are not very noisy about the bite.”

She said West is not a noisy type of person.

Solomon-Baksh said in the 2,000 cases probed by the PCA since 2010, it had not had a case of a complaint against the police ever being put in danger.

One woman claimed about 20 officers had raided her home and charged her son for marijuana possession while also using tough tactics to try to get him to reveal the presence of a gun.

“Should we go to the PCA?” she asked. “We’ll be victimised.”

West said any PCA probe would be confidential, although Tunapuna MP Esmond Ford opined that the police could deduce who was the complainant. Otherwise Ford lauded West’s figures, which showed very few complaints against officers at the Tunapuna station.

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