The issue of gender-based violence will not be "business as usual" for the police, with the formation of the new Gender-Based Violence Unit (GBVU), according to Police Commissioner Gary Griffith as he pledged a renewed commitment to tackling domestic violence.
He was speaking at the launch of the unit at the Solomon McLeod lecture theatre, Police Administration Building, Sackville Street, Port of Spain, on Tuesday. Griffith apologised, on behalf of the police, to victims of domestic violence for the poor service and response they may have received when reporting crimes.
He said while he could not promise that all officers will maintain professionalism in their duties, he vowed the police service, as an organisation, will continue to treat all crimes seriously.
"This unit should have been established a very long time ago. We (the police) have made mistakes in the past, but what we intend to do is learn from these mistakes. There will be mistakes in the future, but I can give you the assurance that with the establishment of this unit, there will be a system of better leadership, better management and we will be able to make people more accountable.
"We must never reach a point in our society where we become immune to wrong-doing, and I started seeing that. We have reached a point in our society where we look at domestic violence and trivialise it as if it's no big thing. In the police service, our job is to do what is required to protect those that need our protection."
Griffith said while the police will be doing their part in fighting domestic violence, he urged the public to be alert and report incidents of suspected domestic violence.
He said along with the unit, the police were also working to establish a register of domestic violence cases to better inform officers who may be responding to reports of gender-based violence on whether the suspect was a repeat offender.
The unit has received training specialising in areas of gender-based violence from the NYPD and will have about four officers assigned to each of the nine police districts in TT. Griffith said this may change over time depending on the demand for officers in this unit.
Head of the GBVU, Shireen Pollard, said gender-based violence was one of the least prosecuted crimes in TT and acknowledged while much more should be done to treat with domestic violence, the police were doing their part in dealing with the issue.