Griffith: Rogue cops have links to politicians, media

Police Commissioner Gary Griffith.  File photo/Angelo Marcelle -
Police Commissioner Gary Griffith. File photo/Angelo Marcelle -

Corruption in the police service, funded by transnational crime organisations, has for decades infiltrated the ranks at all levels and would continue to do so if politicians, on both sides of the divide, and society continue to ignore the festering sore.

For there to be any significant progress to weed out rogue elements from within the ranks, drastic legislative changes are necessary to enforce mandatory polygraph and drug tests for all officers, radically change the system of promotion and the Commissioner of Police must be given the ability to fire errant officers without having the matters drag on for years before a decision by a jury in the High Court.

These are some of the suggestions coming out of a continued investigation by Sunday Newsday into the effectiveness of the police service in the 21st century which still carries the yoke of criminality dating back over 35 years and first exposed in the Scott Drug Report.

"It is not as bad as it seems," CoP Gary Griffith said in an interview on Saturday, but he acknowledged the police service still had some way to go to before the police service would be regarded as "TT's finest."

"We must take decisive action to clean-up the police service. What is unfortunate, rogue police officers have links with politicians, and the media to get back at the CoP," he said.

His predecessor, Stephen Williams, who acted as CoP for six years, agreed that corruption in police organisations is a long-standing problem.

"It is not limited to the TTPS, it is spread globally. You have had some countries tackling it head-on and would have had some appreciable improvement and many countries have just continued doing small things with no significant gains," Williams said in an interview with Sunday Newsday.

Williams said in the history of the service there has never been a time when a "workable solution" has been planned to deal with corruption in the ranks.

For his part, Williams conceded a police leader cannot make the difference on his own.

"He could be how great he is, but he has clear limitations on numerous fronts and he cannot do it on his own. But with a combined effort with government having that as a priority, the police service having that as a priority, the opposition in the country having that as a priority and the society itself pressing that as a priority, we surely can implement a workable solution and get results."

Griffith believes that if he gets the support of urgent legislative changes, within four years there can be 2,400 serving police officers who would be corrupt-free.

He says the inability of the CoP to monitor police officers by way of polygraph and drug tests has created a "big problem" as well as his inability to immediately remove officers accused of serious criminal activity including murder, kidnapping and rape.

Griffith said in other countries when an officer hands in their badge and gun, they also lose some of their benefits unlike TT where it pays to be a rogue officer since the salary of suspended officers remain intact.

He said his efforts over the last two years to enforce discipline has been met with hypocrisy from society, who endorse decisive actions in the US but condemn similar efforts locally, and pushback from within the organisation.

Criminologist Darius Figuera, a retired UWI lecturer, says there will always be forces external of the police service which would want it corrupted in order to grant them impunity to carry on their illicit activity.

And like many other countries, the most powerful force that would put that sort of pressure on the police service is transnational organised crime.

"Transnational organised crime is a diverse activity pointed towards generating wealth and in order to generate that wealth and to ensure its security it has to compromise the national security apparatus. In TT, its target is the police service and therefore there are different methods utilised in order to compromise the police service," he said in an interview.

Figuera said the threat of narco-traffickers had evolved drastically since the 1980s and the issue now was whether law enforcement had the ability to respond.

"This goes back in time because it has been pointed out in previous reports like the O'Dowd Report and the Scotland Yard Report, with serious problems in the way it functions. What we see today is that we have four horsemen of the apocalypse – promotions, discipline, command and control and organised crime."

Figuera said each category complements each other and any weakness intensifies the impact of corruption on efficiency of the police service and trust the public has in the police service.

He said any dysfunction in the police service works to empower those seeking to undermine it.

To combat this, Figuera said there must be "strong, organic, effective management."

"A police service has to have complex, competent organic management much more than any private sector organisation. It is unique, much more than a military organisation. A police service is a unique institution," he said.

Williams noted that a key factor in the fight against corruption was ensuring officers are properly remunerated.

"Right now, the police service is struggling, and somebody has to a fool to say anything else, but the police service is struggling. It is struggling with the issue of corruption and it has been struggling with the issue of corruption for a long time. Nobody would have implemented a well-planned out strategy to eliminate corruption in the police service," he said.

He referred to comments by world famous police commander Bill Braxton, who led the NYPD twice, who was criticised when he said in TT that if "you paid peanuts what would you expect to get".

"When you look at corruption globally, places which stands out in a negative way about police corruption you would see a common thread, the police officers’ wages, salaries are poor," Williams said.

Figuera agreed with Williams that no CoP by himself can effect change in an organisation.

"It has to be a concerted effort by the ruling politicians and the state agencies for reform. To put a CoP on the job and expect that CoP to be the single agent of change is setting him up for a fall, he said, noting that was now being played out.

Griffith does not think so and believes that there have been significant strides under his leadership and there have been some real results to show as the country is set to record the lowest number of serious crimes this year, and almost 120 officers have been suspended for allegations of wrongdoing, half of whom are currently facing criminal charges.

Williams was a bit more pragmatic.

"What is happening in TT today is that the police service is a mirror image of the society. I am saying that in the context that the moral standards are dropping and dropping and dropping. And if the moral standards are dropping in society, it also means that the people you are recruiting from the society to be police officers are of that low moral standard. So therefore, your integrity will be challenged. That is a foundation stone of a police officer. Levels of integrity and honesty. And if you can't get that right, you can't get the issue of corruption effectively challenged."


"Griffith: Rogue cops have links to politicians, media"

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