CoP: Measures in place to stop return of guns to criminals

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

McDonald Jacob –

Acting Police Commissioner McDonald Jacob has responded to concerns that guns seized by the police were being returned to criminals, describing it as a “long-time thought” as newer measures were in place to prevent this.

A report from the Strategic Services Agency (SSA) laid in the Senate last Tuesday highlighted concerns of guns being returned to criminals by rogue police officers.

Responding to Newsday’s questions after a ceremony at the House of Angostura, Laventille, on Friday, Jacob said that the report presented by the SSA was completed in 2020, adding that measures were “significantly tightened” to prevent this from taking place.

He noted that among the measures were a rigid chain of custody for officers who seized illegal guns and stressed that improved technology at the Special Evidence Recovery Unit (SERU), Cumuto, would be able to detect if a weapon seized by police was seized a second time.

“As you may have known we have set up a one-stop shop at our Special Evidence Recovery Unit (SERU) in Cumuto and we also have the guidance for the police officers through a departmental order that the firearms must be reach there within a particular time. Now, with the opening of our ballistics department, if a firearm came there and it came again they (officers) will be able to identify it immediately and the officers will be held accountable.

“So the question of illegal firearms being recycled I would say that is a long-time thought because of how the system is designed now.”

National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds said he was also assured by Jacob that there were adequate protocols in place to prevent return of guns to criminals.

Referring to an incident where members of the US-based Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) were arrested and charged for drug-trafficking, Hinds said if police and other members of the protective services were found to collaborate with criminals they would also face the consequences.

“Whenever any human being including those who happen to be part of the enforcement platform conduct themselves in any way that can be deemed and proven to be criminal they too will be made to account.”

On Tuesday the Prime Minister called on Jacob to probe under whose authority a clause which protected the country’s interest was removed from a billion dollar Point Fortin contract on September 4, 2015, the last working day before the September 7, 2015 General Election.

Dr Rowley claimed the State now owes Construtora OAS, the original contractor on the Point Fortin Highway $852 million as a result of the removal of the clause.

Asked whether the matter would be investigated Jacob said, “All I can tell you is once reports are made to us and there is any measure of alleged criminality we will do the enquiry.”

On Thursday it was reported that the UNC would be filing a motion of privileges against Hinds over comments made in response to Chaguanas East MP Vandana Mohit, where he described a report she had co-authored as being “almost naked.”

Responding to the motion, Hinds said it was not the first time a motion of privileges was brought against an MP.