CoP: I took no directive from PM on Tobago audio-clip probe

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

I AM NOT INVOLVED: Commissioner of Police, Erla Christopher, alongside from left, DCP Curt Simon of TTPS Intelligence and Investigations and ACP Wendell Lucas of TTPS White Collar Crime Division, during a media conference to address allegations made by THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine on Wednesday morning. – ROGER JACOB

COMMISSIONER of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher has outright denied all allegations made by Chief Secretary Farley Augustine of her being a part of an agenda with senior police and government officials to undermine the operations of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) executive members.

In a media conference on Wednesday, Harewood-Christopher said, “The chief secretary made certain statements which alleged undue influence and involvement of the commissioner of police and the TTPS (TT Police Service) in appropriate conduct. These are serious allegations which strike the root of the integrity of the TTPS with the potential for very adverse impact on the very function of law enforcement.

The Police Commissioner was referring to a statement made by Augustine at a special THA sitting in the Assembly Legislature, Scarborough on Wednesday morning.

In the statement, Augustine accused Harewood-Christopher, the Prime Minister, PNM Tobago Council Leader Ancil Dennis and others of being part of a plot to destabilise the THA after police raids were conducted at the homes of several THA officials over the weekend. The chief secretary’s home was also raided on Tuesday.

The raids were conducted as part of a police probe into a controversial audio clip first shared on social media in May. In the clip, people believed to be high-ranking government officials can be heard planning to use THA resources to fund a political propaganda campaign.

On Wednesday, Augustine alleged the search warrants used in the raids were obtained through “bribery, improper political influence, corruption, police misbehaviour and other forms of police misconduct.”

He added that had instructed his attorneys to write to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Director of the Police Complaints Authority and the Commissioner of Police.

He also promised to write to several international agencies, including Caricom and the United Nations about the matter.

Responding at the police media conference, Harewood-Christopher said, “I wish to categorically deny that I took any directive from the PM or that the TTPS, in pursuing this investigation, motivated, instructed, or directed in any way what is being alleged by the chief secretary.

She added: “On the contrary, the police acted on its own deliberate judgment in accordance with the laws of TT with the execution of its function with the matter being investigated.

“In the face of these allegations, I wish to assure these citizens that I have the assurance of all officers involved and I am satisfied that the police has acted properly and independently in this matter and in accordance with our usual practice.”

She said the police would resist all attempts to align its operations with political aspirations.

“We will pursue this investigation in a professional and objective manner to its lawful conclusion.”

Over the past week, the police has come under heavy criticism over the possible existence of corrupt officers within its ranks. Harewood-Christopher said the criticism had not affected the ethos or morale of her officers.

She said neither her officers in Tobago nor the investigation into the audio clip had been affected in any way by Augustine’s allegations.

“The ethos and morale of the officers remain high and we know that it is likely that we would be used and abused in the process. But that does not affect our operations.”

Head of the White-Collar Crime Division Wendell Lucas said the investigation would not be affected by any of Augustine’s allegations.

“The investigation continues in Tobago. We have investigators on the ground in Tobago and they have been doing a sterling job so far. And they will continue to do their job without fair or favour despite what was said this morning.”