Police Commissioner Gary Griffith was left fuming and disappointed with the response of a non-profit organisation to a reported incident of domestic violence.
According to reports, a woman who said she had been beaten by her husband at their Port of Spain home on Wednesday, called a domestic violence hotline. She later reported that the hotline operator told her they were too busy to take her call and she should call back. The woman then contacted Griffith and told him what had happened.
Newsday spoke to Commissioner Griffith, who confirmed the woman had contacted him, and said he in turn called the hotline and spoke to an operator. “It was brought to my attention and I was very concerned, because if these things happened on the police’s watch, the police would be blamed.”
He said the operator he spoke to confirmed the response the woman had been given. “We can’t afford to drop the ball on this, especially in a case where someone is being beaten or threatened. I was put on to the co-ordinator, who then has the audacity to tell me that I ‘needed to understand how it works.’
“It was very unfortunate and we don’t need agencies that drop the ball like that. Timing is critical. Every single victim must be taken seriously. If we drop the ball on one, we fail. This is not what we want.” Griffith said while he understood that people make mistakes, a more compassionate and professional response was needed from hotline operators. Newsday understands when the woman called back the hotline on Thursday, the operator told her in a sarcastic tone to call a police station or contact Griffith.
Newsday contacted the hotline on Thursday just after 4.30 pm. An operator said the co-ordinator was not available. The reporter was also told to call back on Friday. The hotline is not run by the police service but is contracted under a government institution.
On Tuesday, Griffith launched the police’s Gender-Based Violence Unit to investigate and deal with issues relating to domestic violence.
At the launch, he vowed a renewed effort in tackling issues of violence against women and girls and apologised to victims who have experienced ridicule from the police when reporting crimes against them.