Estate police want automatic guns for carrying cash in transit

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Estate Police Association president Deryck Richardson claims.

ESTATE Police Association (EPA) Deryck Richardson is suggesting security guards should be allowed to use automatic weapons when they have to do cash-in-transit (CIT) operations.

He spoke at a news conference at the EPA’s headquarters in Marabella on Tuesday, while referring to the murder of security guard Hasely Augustine, 46, of Telecom Security Services Ltd

Augustine and three colleagues were depositing cash at an RBC ATM at DS Plaza at Chin Chin Road in Cunupia at around 11.30 am on August 17 when five gunmen, some with high-powered weapons, ambushed them. Augustine struggled with one of the men, who shot him. The men escaped.

Richardson observed this incident happened almost a year after the deadly Pennywise shooting at La Romaine under similar circumstances while officers were carrying cash in transit.

Reiterating the association’s call for private security guards and estate police officers to be allowed to carry more than 25 rounds of ammunition, Richardson said the EPA has written to Commissioner of Police (CoP) Erla Harewood-Christopher to discuss this.

He hoped to discuss with her mandatory protocols to let private security guards and estate police officers doing CIT activities use automatic weapons to protect themselves against better-armed criminals. He said estate police officers and security guards are only armed with pistols, revolvers and shotguns.

“You can’t send me to fight a war with a slingshot.”

He hinted that it might be necessary for either Harewood-Christopher or the association to raise this issue with National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds at some point.

Richardson said officers would also need to be properly trained in the use of automatic weapons and equipped with higher-grade bulletproof vests that could better protect them against ammunition used by assault rifle-wielding criminals.

Richardson said the lifespan of a typical bulletproof vest is five years. He claimed Augustine may have been wearing a defective vest on August 17

Richardson reiterated the association’s concerns about companies not providing security officers with proper bulletproof vests and poorly armoured vehicles to do their jobs.

Reminding officers to be cognisant of their personal safety and flag any concerns with the EPA, Richardson said there have been times when the EPA has raised these concerns and security companies “miraculously” come up with the funds needed for the resources the officers were clamouring for.

He added that while estate police officers have powers, privileges and immunities similar to police officers under the law, this is not always reflected in their daily operations.

Prison Officers Association president Gerard Gordon said prison officers have access to high-powered weapons, in order to deal with situations at the prisons. He reminded the media that prisons remain dangerous places.

Gordon said prison officers are not allowed to take automatic weapons with them when they are off duty.