Kambon: CoP must go! Abominable handling of the death of two suspects

“[…] [Griffith’s] defence of the arresting units in this matter—without a proper independent investigation or indication of concern about the coroner’s report—with a complete disregard for the truth, is abominable. It is even more so as he bears the responsibility for setting up SORT, a team from which arrested the men and in whose custody they died …”


In the following Letter to the Editor, Khafra Kambon, of the Emancipation Support Committee of Trinidad & Tobago, calls for the removal of Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith following his response to the death of two suspects while in police custody:

Photo: Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith.

The year 2021 opened in a disturbing manner for Trinidad and Tobago. Our society requires calm and competent leadership at every level as we face increasingly serious challenges.

These include deteriorating economic conditions, job losses, anxieties and social strains aggravated by Covid 19. Insecurities and psychological stress are compounded by rising rates of crime and, unfortunately, in some cases, the nature of the response to crime by those with the responsibility to protect and serve’.

According to newspaper reports of 21 February, an investigation is ongoing into the official response of an arm of the protective services, the Special Operations Response Team (SORT), to the kidnap and brutal murder of Andrea Bharatt who was abducted on 29 January 2021.

Bharatt’s fate came soon after the nation had been traumatised by the murder of Ashanti Riley, also very young, who was kidnapped on 29 November 2020. In this environment, it drew a massive public outpouring of grief and sympathy for the family, as well as nationwide rage.

Photo: Andrew ‘Solo’ Morris died on 1 February 2021, shortly after being arrested by the TTPS.
The TTPS did not announce his death until 3 February.

People were crying out for justice. Some were even willing to accept incredulous official explanations when arrested suspects, Andrew Morris and Joel Belcon, met horrendous deaths in the custody of SORT.

But the truth about their deaths caught up with the lies told to the public. Official statements that were in conflict with widely publicised scientific evidence provided by pathologist Professor Hubert Daisely. His report detailed multiple blunt force injuries to the skulls, bodies, ribs and other bones, hearts and other vital organs of both men.

In the case of Morris, the official reports were further debunked by a video that surfaced. Several voices challenged the official narrative, including voices of concerned individuals, journalists, the Law Association and the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church.

In raising its voice, the Emancipation Support Committee of Trinidad & Tobago calls on citizens to join in demands for action, beginning with the removal of Gary Griffith as commissioner of police.

His defence of the arresting units in this matter—without a proper independent investigation or indication of concern about the coroner’s report—with a complete disregard for the truth, is abominable. It is even more so as he bears the responsibility for setting up SORT, a team from which arrested the men and in whose custody they died.

Photo: Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith (right) joins officers on an exercise.

The CoP is comfortable telling stories about how the heavily armed SORT officers, with specialised military training, were simply defending themselves against unarmed individuals, each one alone against a team of them (was it 22 to 1?).

But citizens cannot afford to be comfortable. It should be clear from this outrage and the defence of it that Griffith’s continuation in office will drag the country further down a dangerous path.

We also call for a thorough assessment of SORT, including its role in the current investigation of the murder of Ms Bharatt. The assessment is recommended with a view to retraining and restructuring or disbanding the unit.

Part of the Gary Griffith legacy, which has to be exorcised, is his popularisation of the use of the term ‘cockroaches’ to define certain classes of our citizens, invariably those who are African and poor.

This desensitises important categories of officials when they deal with those whose appearance and material circumstances fit the stereotypical image. It also detracts from public concern for the lives and livelihoods of those defamed by those images, putting them at greater risk of being killed by the military forces and generally strengthens racial stereotyping and divisiveness.

Embed from Getty Images

We urge all citizens to recognise the role played by such terms in the dehumanisation of the ‘other’ through language in the worst mass crimes in modern history, including genocides in Nazi Germany and Rwanda.

United Nations officials constantly warn against this abuse of language, and ‘cockroaches’ is one of the terms specifically condemned. We even saw it featuring in vulgar, racist commentary in Trinidad and Tobago after the 2020 election.

Both in the public education and the formal education systems, officials and other influencers need to sensitise our people generally about the need to see each other as human, regardless of class or ethnicity, for us to develop positive sensibilities to shape the ways in which we interact with each other.

We have to allow this tragic episode to be a warning to the public of the dangers we all face when the persons we depend on to protect us feel empowered to become judges, jury and executioners.

Photo: Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith poses over a dying suspect, who was arrested for the murder of a policeman, on 28 December 2019. 
The image is blurred as it may be disturbing to some readers.

We will not have a civilised society if those responsible for enforcing the law, with the special means at their disposal to do so, feel empowered to inflict on suspected persons, punishments of any magnitude that would satisfy their own emotional responses to an act, even to the point of inflicting death. It would be worse if they were allowed to do this with impunity.

We need to reflect on this at a time when most citizens feel threatened by escalating crime, and we may feel urges for revenge against those who offend our deepest instincts by crimes as brutish as those committed against Ashanti and Andrea.

But we must ensure proper investigation, scientific evidence and processes of a properly constituted judicial system to determine innocence or guilt and appropriate punishments.

We cannot allow emotions to drag us down a precipitous incline to a police state where the crimes committed by demented civilians today may pale in comparison to the terrors of officially sanctioned violence and murders without redress tomorrow.

Photo: Emancipation Support Committee (ESC) chairman Khafra Kambon.
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  1. thehandbehindthecurtain

    Body cameras could have shown an independent viewpoint of what transpired with these suspects. The camera aids and even protects good police officers in the line of duty and the same camera can be used to hold criminal officers accountable. The truth should prevail.

  2. “Imagine Mr.Kambon in the role of COP, would he do better?”

    What really is your point?

    I know people who don’t know the difference between a googly and a grugrubef and they can see that Kieron Pollard is a better captain than Jason Holder.

    Kambon should shut up because he cyar ketch no criminal?

    Look, mister!

    • thehandbehindthecurtain

      Since you copied and pasted a line from my comment into yours I’ll assume that you are responding to me even though you didn’t do so in the available reply option. If Mr. Kambon’s role is emancipation what exactly is he trying to emancipate in the fight against crime?
      2 suspects died under strange circumstances, it is obviously being investigated, no rug is big enough to sweep two dead person’s under it and for it not to show a huge bulge.
      For some the image of a black bald headed Tobagonian as PM is a provocation, for others it would be a white person or an Indian, and here we have possibly the provocation created by the image of a strong red skinned Gary Griffith in a position of power such as COP. Griffith is what many Trinbagonians would call red skinned or a red man (is that used as a term of endearment?) and a police officer so that’s two strikes against him right there when dealing with persons who want him as the enemy to point at. Somewhere in their mind the red skin triggers a response that makes them want to challenge, maybe it goes all the way back to Massa days when the red skinned slave was in the house with Massa eating his food and supposedly enjoying the comforts of rich life while the black slave was working the fields and vexed at seeing the red skinned slave inside the house rather than in the hot sun with him/her. So the red skinned slave who was undoubtedly a slave is blamed for being better off, even though they were being subjected to casual intimidation, violence and even rape and murder inside that house. So because Mr. Gary Griffith culturally a is red skinned person in a nation with that dark past of slavery and because he is up against criminals with mostly darker skin than him who rob, rape and murder and because he uses strong language to describe these criminals (cockroaches, miscreants, criminal elements, gangsters etc.) he is the bad guy?
      Who is putting guns into the hands of poor urban African youth?
      Who is putting guns into poor Indian youths hands?
      Who is recruiting them into gangs for them to escalate the crime and violence?
      Who activated a never ending gun pipeline into TT around the year 2000 (look at the statistics before and after, it is undeniable!)?
      Who told the poor youth that violence is the solution to solve disputes?
      Who told them to hate the system rather than to teach them how to use the system to get what they want and need?
      I would like to assume that all law abiding Trinbagonians want the same thing in the fight against crime, to put it short good must prevail over evil.
      Do not put COP Griffith as the evil man when he is a warrior for TT’s survival. You think we have crime problems now, where the hell would TT be without the police and soldiers who go to work everyday and who in doing so keep some kind of order even in a deteriorating nation state such as TT.
      Call for accountability and justice and even criticize him when necessary but don’t fight down the man for doing what must be done.

  3. thehandbehindthecurtain

    ”Part of the Gary Griffith legacy, which has to be exorcised, is his popularisation of the use of the term ‘cockroaches’ to define certain classes of our citizens, invariably those who are African and poor.”
    Ridiculous. Griffith’s use of that term was never directed at poor African youth. He used that term to describe robbers, rapists, gangs, murderers etc. Kambon seems to think that TT’s political situation is comparable to Rwanda before the genocide. He even goes so far as to take completely unrelated pics from the internet to underline his non point.
    The COP has enough stuff to deal with that he doesn’t need this activist attacking him in the press. There are multiple investigations into the deaths of the Bharrat murder suspects, surely the COP will accept whatever findings that arise and act accordingly. Imagine Mr.Kambon in the role of COP, would he do better?

      • thehandbehindthecurtain

        Is it Bratan or Salacious B. Crumb or is it really Sally (I won’t add the last name but you know who)?
        And where are the double exclamation marks and questions marks that you like to use.
        I’m surprised you’re still using ”Bratan” since you’ve been exposed in another set of comments by another story on this website recently. If you need help with a pseudonym I’l be glad to help. Maybe we could go with Mysterious Bratan or Dr. Bratan, Keyboardwarrior57 or my personal favorite magnificentstrokes lmao.

        • Raymond???
          wth is this person on about? Paranoid much? Which one of your parents came up with the classy name “thehandbehindthecurtain”? You were gaslighting! You’re denying african people the respect of acknowledging that cockroach isn’t a term specifically used on them and that they’re over-reacting!

          • thehandbehindthecurtain

            Bullshit. Nobody in TT is calling any black person cockroach for being black. You just want to encourage victim mentality.
            Persons of African ancestry make up about half of the population in TT and they are some of the most successful, that success is the worst thing that could happen to any racist who dislikes black people.

            • “persons of african ancestry make up about half…”

              Where do you get your figures and analyses from? Rienzi? “African ancestry” automatically surges way past the “half” mark in T&T’s population. The unc’s politicization of the T&T’s demographics has lead to many delusions…T&T has always been a majority african ancestry DESCENDED society!How people CHOOSE to “identify” as (privilege) is an entirely different storyline. The term “African” amongst africans in the new world is a political construct in response to their lived experience of enslavement, and as such, has not been deluded by the notion of genetic “purity” almost since arrival with the spanish explorer colonist enslavers.
              e.g. The entire indigenous trinidadian community (“caribs”) have been 100% african descendents for hundreds of years pre 1783 (indigenous, european, african ).

            • “Victim Mentality”…
              There it goes again…Gaslighting!
              Would you categorize the discussions and protests for violence against women (rape, kidnapping ) as encouraging a “Victim Mentality”? Why not? Why then are you presuming to scold persons (infantalization), about discussing and protesting dehumanizing language as an encouragement of a “Victim Mentality”. ?

          • thehandbehindthecurtain

            Is there a single black Trinbagonian who in their day to day life is concerned about the term ”cockroach”?
            People are concerned about paying their utility bills, car insurance and putting food in their fridge.
            Should criminals be talked about nicely?
            The term was used in the context of describing criminals.

            • The police do not hold criminals. They hold suspects. For me, that has to be the starting point for any sensible discussion on policing.
              Are all ‘suspects’ cockroaches?
              Jack Warner is on the Interpol’s most wanted list but he was a guest at Gary Griffith’s home last year. How would Griffith describe him?
              In 2021, I should not have to be pointing to the problem in dehumanising anyone–including suspects for heinous crimes. This cannot be a debate worth having in this day and age. It is reprehensible to me that anyone would try to justify calling another human being a ‘cockroach’; and if the police view the people they meet on the streets as less than human, then I would not be surprised if brutality and extra judicial killings multiply.

            • Again… Gaslighting! (psycholgical abuse)

              Presuming to tell africans what their priorities SHOULD BE, while denying their humanity in experiencing the anguish of everyday racism and articulating it.Is there a single african trinbagonian that doesn’t only stress about bill paying? Ridiculous! Gum chewing and walking aren’t mutually exclusive!

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