Ex-CoP Griffith backs Kamla’s call to ‘light up criminals’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

NTA political leader and former police commissioner Gary Griffith. FILE PHOTO – Jeff K. Mayers

FORMER commissioner of police (CoP) Gary Griffith supports Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s advice to citizens to “light up” criminals when they invade their homes.

Griffith, a former national security minister in Persad-Bissessar’s then UNC-led People’s Partnership coalition government, also agreed with her about the need for citizens to have easier access to acquire legal firearms to defend themselves against criminals.

At a UNC public meeting on Monday in Chaguanas, Persad-Bissessar said, “When the criminals invade your home, draw your licensed firearm and light them up! Empty the whole clip and reload too. Fight fire with fire!”

She referred to an incident on July 29 when a female homeowner shot and killed an intruder at her Chaguanas home.

Persad-Bissessar said that incident justified the need for law-abiding citizens to have greater access to legal firearms and the need for stand-your-ground laws.”

On Wednesday, via WhatsApp messages, Griffith told Newsday that some people could misinterpret what Persad-Bissessar was saying. “Many times people do interpretations of words by politicians for their own benefit.”

He said what Persad-Bissessar was alluding to “was if several people break into your home, you can’t just fire a shot in the air, you can’t fire at one person.”

Griffith added, “Your job would be to neutralise each and every person who attacks you because most times with home invasions, it’s not one individual (intruder).

He said: “If you have to utilise all the ammunition in your magazine to neutralise everyone, so be it.”

Persad-Bissessar, Griffith continued, was not speaking about using excessive force.

He said there was a recent media report quoting an alleged anonymous police officer who said, “If someone goes into your home and attacks you with a stone, you must use equal force to prevent you from being charged with excessive force.”

Griffith described this unknown person as “the dumbest police officer in the TTPS to make such a stupid statement.”

Based on that person’s comment, Griffith said it suggests that “anytime someone comes into your home to attack you or to damage you, you must look to be walking around to find equal force to make sure you do not use excessive force on the individual.”

He reiterated his view that “the laws have been so shifted towards helping criminals instead of law-abiding citizens.” Griffith said there must be proper training for all people who apply for firearms.

He added this was happening during his tenure as CoP.

He added there should also be continuous training and monitoring of people who legally acquire firearms.

“Somebody may be of sound body and mind when they applied (for their firearms). But then five, ten years down the road, based on financial, domestic matters, matters at work…the person may no longer have that capability and eligibility to have a firearm.”

Griffith said this is why firearm cards with microchips were provided to bonafide firearms-holders.

“The chip was to ensure that persons will come on a regular basis for continuous training. That was never being done before me (as CoP).”

He said there have been cases where some firearms holders have not practised on a shooting range in years.

Griffith said before he was CoP, “There were many more incidents of persons losing their firearms and persons losing their firearms, being intoxicated and having it in their possession, having negligent discharges.”

He added, “I had such a proper system in place and that is why in the 4,000 people who received firearms under my watch, in my three years (as CoP), not one was lost, not one was stolen, not one was used for a crime, not one was used for a murder.”

Of the 4,000 firearms legally issued during his tenure, Griffith said, “Half would have been to civilians. Half would have been to law enforcement officers, past and present, who needed it.”