A slap on the wrist

Police Commissioner Gary Griffith puts on his mask during a media briefing at the Police Administration Building in Port of Spain. - Angelo Marcelle
Police Commissioner Gary Griffith puts on his mask during a media briefing at the Police Administration Building in Port of Spain. - Angelo Marcelle

COMMISSIONER of Police Gary Griffith wants us to believe he is tough on crime.

Which is why his defence of the slap on the wrist given to partygoers at a pool party at Bayside Towers is so jarring.

And a slap on the wrist it was.

Mr Griffith would like us to consider prior instances when police allowed people to get off with breaches of public health rules, particularly people of a different demographic from those associated with gated condominium complexes.

But such an approach ignores the increasingly fraught circumstances we are in today.

Perhaps the commissioner’s focus on the crime rate going down has blinded him to the fact that covid19 deaths are going up. And going up dramatically.

Even the Police Service has had, in recent weeks, to contend with a dramatic escalation. At least 114 recruits at the Police Academy have tested positive; several floors of the Police Administration Building have had to be sanitised; and Mr Griffith himself on Wednesday lamented, “It is virtually crippling us.”

So whatever obtained previously, this is a different ball game.

What makes the police’s initial failure to act in this instance, and the commissioner’s defence of that failure, worse is Mr Griffith’s own previous position on the question of enforcing regulations on private property.

“Yes, we can,” Mr Griffith said in April, citing a public health ordinance.

It may well be the commissioner was engaging in gun talk at a moment when there was a dire need to scare people into acting properly.

Equally, the commissioner may have later discovered the legal complexities and intricacies and ambiguities with which he is now so well-versed.

However, in relation to Bayshore, it is unclear if officers on duty felt it necessary to consider what other laws might have been relevant.

For instance, what about the offence of public nuisance? It seems it matters not whether that offence takes place on private or public property.

According to the Summary Offences Act, “any person occupying or having control over any house, yard or premises of whatever nature who permits such nuisance” is liable.

Granted there are grey areas, the police, the State and health officials have had several weeks to work together and fix them. The second wave was no surprise. And before Bayshore, there were long whispers about parties on private islands and so on.

Instead, here we are today with all these complaints about how bad the law is and hence, from other quarters, that it is being applied in a discriminatory fashion.

In the past, especially given the progress mapped by official statistics relating to the crime fight, many have been disinclined to accuse Mr Griffith of being all bark and no bite.

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"A slap on the wrist"

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