Griffith to sort out SORT after group head slapped with criminal charge

Mark Hernandez -
Mark Hernandez -

FOUR DAYS after head of the Special Operations Response Team (SORT) Insp Mark Hernandez was charged, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith says he is looking for the best person to replace him.

Speaking at a media briefing at the Police Administration Building on Thursday, Griffith said by next week there should be a replacement.

"We need to have the best leaders for the best situations. By the next press conference we would speak a lot more as it deals with SORT. We need the proper person to drive the SORT forward."

He said there is data to support SORT as having contributed to making a "major dent" in crime. There were many benefits to SORT, Griffith said, one of which was the polygraph testing of officers, but there were some issues.

"We had issue with the Drugs Sou Sou, and many operations can collapse before (they) even start because of rogue officers or talkative police.

"SORT had that degree of sensitivity and was (run) on a need-to-know basis. We put a dent in many criminal activities as it pertains to kidnapping, trafficking, persons involved in illegal activity in the TTPS."

He added: "SORT stepped on many toes and there will be persons who will have the hope that this would be something that would impact it, but we now srart to rumble."

He likened SORT to the now defunct Special Anti-Crime Unit of TT (SAUTT) and international elite police unit SWAT, saying SORT is that effective.

" It is a frontline operations unit. That unit will stay and probably be expanded. So I need to ensure whoever is selected will adhere to requirements of SORT."

Hernandez is on $300,000 bail for misbehaviour in public office. The charge against the 23-year veteran is linked to a complaint by David Ottley Jr, who claimed he was beaten while in custody.

Ottley was detained by police during the investigation into the kidnapping and murder of court clerk Andrea Bharatt. Hernandez is accused of encouraging the alleged assault against Ottley.

There is a separate investigation by the Professional Standards Bureau into the deaths of murder suspects Andrew Morris and Joel Balcon, who were also held during the investigation of Bharatt's murder and later died in police custody.

Hernandez is currently suspended pending the outcome of his criminal matter. He was one of three men nominated for the position of Deputy Commissioner of Police. His nomination was to have been debated in Parliament for approval, but as a result of his being charged, that will not happen, making it necessary for another nominee to be selected by the Police Service Commission.


"Griffith to sort out SORT after group head slapped with criminal charge"

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