Superintendent Roger Alexander is the new head of the Special Operations Response Team (SORT). His appointment was announced on Wednesday by Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith during the weekly police media briefing at the Police Administration Building in Port of Spain.
Griffith, when asked about the thought process behind selecting Alexander, said he chose the best fit for the unit.
“I have dozens of very good commanders who I see based on their leadership skills. I put horses for courses and I would select the person I see fit to lead those units.”
Alexander, speaking about his new appointment, said he said he intends to build on the progress SORT has already made in fighting crime and criminality, but he also intends to bring the unit closer to the public.
“SORT at this time requires experience, policing, and bringing the public closer,” he said.
“We are seeing what is happening now with the proliferation of guns and ammunition in our country. We have to do something different. What we already have we tweak on it, we add to it to give the public that trust and confidence that all will be well.”
He said everyone in the country, including himself, wants to sleep well at night and go about his or her lawful business during the day, undisturbed by criminal elements.
When asked whether he will continue to host the Beyond the Tape show on TV6, he said yes.
“Everything we do we account for, and that must not change. The public must know what we are doing on a daily basis because we want the public to get involved to such an extent that they would partner with us to make sure all communities and public spaces are safe.”
COP: SORT on the front lines
Griffith added that while SORT has been one of the major topics of conversation, it has been on the frontlines of the fight against crime and has made great strides in breaking up criminal activity and keeping law-abiding citizens safe.
He said of the 163 fatal police shootings in the last two and a half years, nine have involved SORT officers who were, in each case, defending themselves against criminals.
Griffith said, from 2018 to now SORT made 550 arrests, executed 260 warrants, recovered hundreds of rounds of ammunition as well as three hand grenades, and rescued 11 kidnap victims.
“Never before have we had situations where people –whilst being kidnapped– were rescued, no money paid and the kidnappers held.”
He added that SORT seized 700 kilograms of cannabis, 2.5 kilogrammes of cocaine, rescued 140 people from human trafficking, seized dozens of vehicles and seized over $25 million from illegal activities.
“Regardless of what you feel or see, SORT has proven to be one of the frontline operations. But crime is big business and some would be affected by what the police do.
“There are people who would wish that SORT would shut down, but those people would have to wait and wait. It is not going to happen. SORT would continue to be transparent just like the rest of the TTPS. We will do our jobs, we will do it within the law.”
Former SORT head Insp. Mark Hernandez was suspended after being charged with misbehaviour in public office.
The charge stemmed from a complaint by David Ottley Jr who said he was beaten while in custody.
Ottley was held by police during the investigation into the murder of Andrea Bharatt earlier this year. Hernandez is accused of encouraging the beating.
A separate investigation is being done by the Professional Standards Bureau into the deaths of Andrew Morris and Joel Balcon – two suspects in Bharatt’s kidnapping and murder case. Both died while in police custody.