THE POLICE Service Commission (PSC) must exercise its power to hold Commissioner of Police (CoP) Gary Griffith accountable in relation to the events in Morvant on Saturday.
The murder of a police officer was swiftly followed by reports of the killing of three men by police, then culminated with Mr Griffith’s televised intervention that night.
“There is nothing to link the shooting of these three men at the hands of the police with the murder that took place,” the CoP told CNC3 News. “The individuals were confronted. They fired at the police officers. And we have everything to verify it and to show it. The police officers, in minimum use of force policy…were forced to use equal force.”
Hours later, CCTV footage emerged that bore little resemblance to the CoP’s account. Not only did images of men with their hands in the air raise questions about the claim of “equal force,” further disparities arose over the identities of the victims and the number of men involved.
This is a clear case for a full investigation.
But time and again, the CoP has dismissed criticism over his constant intervention in operational matters. He has ignored calls for him to allow the process of justice to unfold without interference.
On this occasion his comments were not only premature, they potentially embroiled his officers in the appearance of a cover-up. And, subject to investigation by the Police Complaints Authority (PCA), they may well prove unfounded.
We condemn in the strongest possible terms the murder of a police officer.
At the same time, we condemn extra-judicial killings in any form or fashion.
Though he attempted to separate the two events, Mr Griffith’s resentful cry on primetime TV that “police lives matter” insinuated the very connection he sought to dispel: between police brutality and civilian killings.
While the PCA examines the conduct of the near-dozen officers involved in Saturday’s incident with three men, it is the PSC, a separate body, which has the constitutional duty to assess the conduct of the top cop.
In this regard, it is unacceptable that as of June 14, the PSC was yet to complete an appraisal of the CoP.
It should now exercise its power to hold the CoP accountable by requesting a report and/or considering disciplinary action touching on the prejudicial impact of premature public statements on sensitive investigations.
In a climate where people are terrified by or desensitised to violent crime, it might be easy for some to dismiss the heart-wrenching cries of family members who say their loved one was innocent.
But in this case, the disparity between the initial report and the CCTV footage is so glaring, this matter demands urgent action.
For the sake of all who depend on the police, it cannot be swept under the carpet.