CoP: Police operating despite $182 million debt

Police Commissioner Gary Griffith.
Police Commissioner Gary Griffith.

COMMISSIONER of Police (CoP) Gary Griffith said on Monday, the police service continues to function at optimal levels despite owing suppliers $182 million.

He said Finance Minister Colm Imbert and National Security Minister Stuart Young are doing all they can to help deal with that debt.

Griffith also said Cabinet recently approved new police uniforms which will facilitate the use of body cameras and equipment in keeping with the police's new "minimum use of force" approach (involving pepper spray and Tasers, before the use of firearms).

Once the police receive the funding they need, Griffith vowed to make it mandatory for officers in all of the frontline units to have body cameras.

He made the statements during a virtual meeting with members of the National Security Joint Select Committee (JSC).

Responding to Port of Spain South MP Keith Scotland's question as to whether the police are receiving reasonable and adequate resources from the Government, Griffith replied, "I am aware that this is not the time of milk and honey and I know things are very difficult.

"At this time, we are indebted of $182 million to suppliers. I probably spend one quarter of my day speaking with all suppliers, speaking with them not to pull the plug."

Griffith identified suppliers of vehicles and information communication technology among some of the entities owed.

"I can give the assurance that this has not affected the operational capability of the police service because I have been liaising constantly with the suppliers not to pull the plug.

"Some of these debts would have been from the last fiscal year. It is not that the police spend more, we actually spend almost $50 to $60 million less than the budget allocation for the last fiscal year. We have reduced it, but the funds have not been approved and delivered to the police service for payment."

In the 2020/2021 budget, the police received an allocation of $2,283,953,92.

Griffith said even if he got a zero budget, "I will do the best I can without affecting the operational capability of the police service."

On providing the officers of all frontline units such as SORT, IATF, Guard and Emergency Branch, with body cameras, Griffith said, "I do not think any police officer will object to this. It is more to protect the police officer."

Saying there are many occasions when false allegations are made against police officers, Griffith reiterated, "The body cameras will now defend my police officers when they are wrongfully accused."

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