THE attorney representing police officer, calypsonian and one-time PNM political aspirant Duane O’Connor confirmed on Thursday that O’Connor has been suspended from the police service. Attorney Keith Beckles said he did not know what O’Connor was suspended for but said his client intends to take the matter to court.
Newsday was referred to Beckles, by O’Connor, when he was contacted for comment. Speaking at the weekly police media briefing on Thursday, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith confirmed “a police officer was suspended for political activities” earlier that day and he warned that public displays of political allegiance are strictly prohibited among active police officers.
Griffith said the political persuasion of a police officer must not be promoted through any public means as it could compromise their image as officers of the law.
“Very few police officers believe it is their constitutional right to openly show support for a political party, every one of my police officers have their right to support who they choose, but that must be done and remain in here.
“At any time, any police officer in or out of uniform decides to openly condemn or support a political party, or even decide to go up as a candidate and boast on the front page (of a newspaper) that he supports the philosophy and role and function and principles of a political party, those are the types of police officers that must be immediately disciplined,” Griffith said. For his part, head of the police Legal Unit Christian Chandler cited the Police Service Regulations which explained that active police officers were not allowed to endorse a political party or go up as a representative as it could tarnish their image as being impartial.
“You have the rights to express yourselves politically, but as a police officer you must always appear to the general public to be unbiased.
“The public can never believe that you as a police officer have a particular partisanship. This goes contrary to the police service regulations Sections 138 and 139.”
Chandler said the conduct of police officers must be unbiased especially during an election year. A policeman was reportedly chosen by the PNM as its local government candidate for the St Ann’s River South (Sea Lots area) for the December 2019 local government elections. That officer’s candidacy was however rescinded by the party. A police media release in February stated that Commissioner Griffith would be investigating reports that an officer had offered himself for St Ann’s River South during December’s Local Government Elections.