Top marks for Griffith as crime dips 25%

Police Commissioner Gary Griffith  

- Angelo Marcelle
Police Commissioner Gary Griffith - Angelo Marcelle

Police Commissioner Gary Griffith on Wednesday admitted that corrupt police officers "in a little cabal" were working to discredit his work as he dismantled their criminal business.

He made the admission as he disclosed his employer's assessment of his first year in office, which saw him pass with flying colours.

"I have done all that I can do...I served the country and I served with pride," he said.

But he acknowledged that the public's assessment on how safe they feel and catching criminals is what really mattered.

Griffith, speaking at a media briefing at the Police Administration Building in Port of Spain, said there had been a 25 per cent-plus reduction in every violent crime over the last 12 months, with 80 fewer murders.

"We have solved more murders in the first five months of this year than all of last year," he said.

Griffith said between August 2017 and August 2018 there were 579 murders and in his first full year in office that figure declined by more than 60. He said in the second year the figure went down even further.

In 2018, there were 523 murders, the second highest in the country's history, and to date there are 297 reported murders, with four months left of the year.

The CoP said while some people may link the reduction in serious crime to the restrictions imposed since mid-March to prevent the spread of covid19, that was not the case. He referred to a surge in crime in major US cities such as New York, Chicago and Boston to support his claim.

"Covid did not reduce crime. In fact, covid causes crime to increase in many countries because people get frustrated, are unemployed and cannot take part in sports," leading some people "to burn their energy in the wrong manner."

"In TT we have gone in the opposite direction," he said.

"For those who want to criticise and find the reduction in every single violent crime in this country by 25 per cent is because of covid, wheel and come again," Griffith said.

Griffith was appointed CoP by the Police Service Commission in August 2018, after a protracted, expensive process to select candidates and get the approval from the House of Representatives. Three other candidates were selected ahead of Griffith but were not approved by Parliament.

On August 31, 2018, Griffith made this promise to the nation, while speaking at the police service Independence Day function: "I would like to reveal a birthday gift to this nation...I give a promise to you today that one year from now, by God's grace and will, by our 57th anniversary the police service will be a more efficient and effective service."

The following year, Griffith reported a five-ten per cent decline in every serious crime, including murder and rape. He admitted then it was not something to boast about "but it means we are going in the right direction. We have not turned the corner."

Now two years in the hot seat, Griffith admits that criminal elements in the police service in their "little cabal" were trying to discredit him because he was hurting their "business."

He said some of his detractors have an agenda to demonise the police service and attack him as part of their agenda to allow crime to flourish.

Griffith said he intends to continue to "step on the toes" of rogue police officers who are protecting drug blocks, using police vehicles to escort and transport civilians, and other serious crimes.

But he called for the public to help him build solid cases against those offenders since he can only transfer them based on intelligence.

The commission chairman Bliss Seepersad said previously that the delay in completing the CoP's first appraisal was linked to the restrictions imposed for the pandemic.

The overall rating was 81.7 per cent, which equated to a "very good" performance for the period January-December 2019. He scored high in 45 of the 46 different categories.

Under the heading maintenance of law and order, and in the category of developing and directing the implementation of strategies to reduce the level of crime and criminal activities, and improve vehicular traffic and pedestrian safety, Griffith's performance was rated as very good.

The commission found that Griffith had achieved his targets of reducing gang-related murders by ten per cent; reducing domestic violence-related murders by 15 per cent; decreasing violent crime, which includes rape, by 15 per cent; increasing the detection of all serious crimes by 40 per cent; reducing road death by ten per cent; recovering 1,000 illegal firearms annually and increasing the number of people arrested for illegal guns by 15 per cent.

He also achieved his target of improving public confidence in the police service by 60 per cent.

However, his  score was  "poor" for reducing the number of instances where court matters are dismissed by the non-appearance of police officers by 50 per cent.

Griffith said while 353 cases were affected between April and June 2019, that figure was sliced to just eight for the same period this year, a 97 per cent improvement in all nine police divisions.

The only other category in which the CoP got a low mark was in the category of possessing sound knowledge of financial regulations and instructions and related circulars.

In conclusion, the commission suggested that the CoP work on improving compliance with Standing Order 41, which relates to the records management, care and maintenance of firearms and ammunition; transfer of firearms and ammunition within divisions; and visits by the police armourer.

He also has to improve the police service record-keeping, preventative maintenance and inspection of police vehicles, comply with all aspects of financial management and his communication skills.


"Top marks for Griffith as crime dips 25%"

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