NATIONAL Security Minister Stuart Young said he has received photos of police officers drinking while on duty and a sting operation caught an officer trying to tip off a place before a police raid.
He made the disclosures yesterday as he piloted the Miscellaneous Provisions (Law Enforcement Officers) Bill in the House.
He explained the bill was meant to protect prison officers, police officers, fire officers, and customs and immigration officers from offences that can be committed against them or their family members. The bill increases penalties, fines and offences for abusing, threatening or "doing worse" to officers. Young added the bill also holds the officers to a higher standard and both added offences and increased penalties for existing offences where officers breach their duties.
He said the bill increased the penalty for selling an officer intoxicating liquor while on duty.
"All too often we have had persons report to us, we've had photographs provided to us of police service vehicles parked outside of establishments that are selling intoxicating liquor. I have had persons send me photographs of officers taking a sip whilst on duty and driving."
He explained the increase was to make it safer for both the police and the public.
Young also said a new offence of tipping off was being introduced by the bill.
"We have had incidents from time immemorial where unfortunately there are elements in the police service who are less than honourable. And we have had incidents where we have planned operations, we have launched operations, for example recent operations where we are going after 'houses of ill repute.' We have planned these operations, we have monitored these houses, we know the types of activities that are taking place, and on the nights or the days that we launch the operation, lo and behold when the police service arrives at the places of ill repute – no one there."
Young said there was a lot of anecdotal talk of the tipping off that may have occurred and there was "a not-too-recent" incident where a sting operation was run to catch who was tipping off. He recalled a police station was told about a house to be raided and at the "house" a call came to say, "watch it, they coming" but in that incident the phone was answered by the police officers involved in the sting.
He also stressed that in the police service there were only "a few bad apples in the barrel."
The bill includes a clause for prison officers who accept bribes, increased penalties for officers "renting" their firearms, and increased penalties for anyone obstructing or assaulting an officer in the conduct of their duties which he said is a growing phenomenon.
"And that is something that this Government is not prepared to tolerate."
He also promised in the future there will be legislation to address people who aid criminals.
"Within recent times there have been certain utterances over a year ago by myself and recently by the Commissioner of Police where the Law Association of TT (LATT) has had the audacity to challenge what is being said and also, rather simply in my mind, to ask that evidence be provided to them. But he is the Commissioner of Police and he is the one who has the evidence and will lead the charge with conviction and prosecution of any lawyer who engages in criminal activity. So I will be asking the Attorney General to bring legislation to deal with, not only lawyers, but other persons who may be assisting criminals in carrying out their criminal empires on the outside."
Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith has recently reported that a small group of lawyers were entering prisons to discuss the conducting of criminal activities with their clients.
The bill included an increased penalty for false reporting which Young said has been a problem especially with the E999 service.
"Persons believe it is appropriate or it is acceptable for them to call in and make false reports to our TT Police Service."
He said the offence is wasteful employment of police time and he added there are number of instances of false reports to other divisions of national security.