Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith has refused to implement the recommendation from Police Complaints Authority (PCA) director David West on the police killings of Joel Jacobs, Mr Israel Moses Clinton and Mr Noel Diamond in Morvant on 27 June.
Yesterday, West ‘formally advised the commissioner of police that officers involved in the [killing] should be immediately suspended’.
Instead, Griffith said the officers who fired their weapons in the fatal encounter were sent on leave while the others remain on administrative duty. And, in a press conference this afternoon, he slammed the PCA for telling him how to discipline his men, making the statement public and, supposedly, failing to justify its recommendation.
Griffith suggested that the PCA was throwing police officers ‘under the bus’ to appease ‘those baying for blue blood’.
“I am not bowing to public pressure,” said Griffith. “I could make life very easy for [myself], as the PCA seems to have done, by just throwing officers under the bus with a media release, and exonerate myself from public pressure… An action like that is the same reason why, 2,000 years later, no one names their son Pontius.
“I am not a weak leader and I am indeed made of sterner stuff… If and when evidence is brought to my attention, I will act. I will not act to quench the thirst of those baying for blue blood.”
Griffith’s stance was supported by acting Deputy Commissioner of Police Operations Jayson Forde and Inspector Gideon Dickson, who also spoke at the press conference.
Forde reminded the media that it was Griffith’s job alone to manage the members of the Police Service while Dickson dismissed the PCA statement as ‘spurious, prejudicial, […] very unprofessional’ and in keeping with ‘the consistent trend of the PCA over the last four to five years’.
“I make informed decisions,” said Griffith. “I don’t make decisions based on what would be popular.”
A monitor at the press conference showed a photograph of murdered police officer PC Allen Moseley—rather than Jacobs, Clinton and Diamond. Mosely, who was attached to the Guard and Emergency Branch, was also killed in Morvant on 27 June.
Dickson told the media that there is a TT$10,000 reward for information that can lead to an arrest in Mosely’s murder.
Griffith criticised the public for ‘demonising’ police officers and said lawmen ‘should get a medal’ for their ‘hard work’ from Christmas to present, particularly during the Covid-19 restrictions.
“No other organisation had to work as much as the Police Service [during the Covid-19 restrictions],” said Griffith. “Police lives don’t matter to some but they matter to me… Don’t be an ungrateful society who do not appreciate what these people do for you on a daily basis.
“[Critics] speak about what Gary Griffith should do, speak about what the police should do; but don’t speak about what criminals should do.”
At another juncture in the press conference, Griffith compared the PCA to the regional cricket team: “like the West Indies test team, they were dropping the ball all over.”
Questioned on the absence of body cameras by officers in the Morvant shootings, Griffith said there are 128 fully operational cameras at present and he has ordered 1,000 more, which will be made mandatory for officers in the major task force departments.
He suggested that these body cameras would be useful for officers who are wrongfully accused of misconduct by ‘the allyuh too wicked posse’.
Another reporter asked about the supposed 156 police killings currently under investigation, and PCA complaints that the TTPS is dragging its feet with handing over vital information.
Again, Griffith pivoted as he claimed that local lawmen are shot at once every four days. He asked why there was no outrage about that.
“There is no concern that people are shooting at my police officers every four days,” said Griffith. “Stop shooting at police officers and we will stop shooting back at you—this has nothing to do with this [Morvant] situation, obviously.”
The commissioner then offered a mixed review on the PCA as he spoke of his wonderful relationship with West and ‘world of respect for the PCA’ but criticised them for sending its recommendation to the media ‘to escalate something before it gets to my desk’.
“The PCA will conduct a very thorough investigation,” said Griffith. “[But] I am not going to have a lynch mob try to look for blue blood… I do not make decisions when I am emotional or when I am angry. I have to do what is right.”
Griffith said his actions are made for the wellbeing of his officers, who he will defend once he believes they are in the right. Policemen, he said, would take a bullet for a stranger, yet get death threats from the public—rather than thanks.
He stressed that he was not concerned about his own safety.
“I am not worried about me,” said Griffith. “If they come after me I will be waiting: locked and loaded.”