Gary: THA police unit, ‘a step in the right direction’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

NTA political leader and former CoP Gary Griffith. –

FORMER commissioner of police Gary Griffith said on June 25 the recent proposal by Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Farley Augustine for a THA police unit was “a step in the right direction.”

During his $3.95 billion budget presentation in the Assembly Legislature on June 24, Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said the legal review to give effect to the police unit has been completed and the path was clear for implementation.

Griffith, a former minister of national security, backed the move but also expressed concerns to Newsday.

“Being previously a CoP and minister of national security, I put a lot of emphasis in trying to secure Tobago and during that period when I held those two posts it was the safest Tobago was in decades.” He said, unfortunately, Augustine has not communicated with him. “I would have advised him on certain things as pertains to that unit in Tobago.”

Griffith said a THA police unit would have a certain value, equating it to the municipal police in Trinidad who report to the local mayor or regional corporation chairman.

He said municipal police helped their corporations in aspects such as parking, traffic management, guarding markets and foot patrols.

“We have seen the value of the municipal police in Trinidad. It (THA police unit) is something that definitely would be of value.”

However, Griffith said a THA police unit ought to co-ordinate its efforts with the regular officers of the police service in Tobago.

“The disadvantage of the municipal police in Trinidad has always been the lack of proper interaction with the TT police service, because municipal police officers do not report directly to the CoP.”

Griffith said, at times the poor communication caused conflicts.

“There may be an event in Woodfood Square and the municipal police will have an operation plan that is totally in contrast with the regular police service.

“So my take on this is even though it may be of value, there must be some degree of co-ordination between this THA unit and the police service stationed in Tobago. Any lack of liaison between the two police units could result in poor communication, duplication of efforts and a lack of mutual respect.

“So that is the first thing that is important.”

He said a new THA police unit was likely to be just one arm in an effort to curb crime in Tobago.

“Every time somebody brings a recommendation as Farley has done, people will say it is not the be all and end all.

“It is not. But it is a step in the right direction.”

Griffith said what was also required were a number of other things that have been removed and not utilised in a proper manner.

“When we started having an increase in violent crime in Tobago, I sent an arm of the Special Operational Response Team (SORT).

“When they went across there, it played a big part to send the criminals back to Trinidad.

Griffith urged a tighter watch on miscreants travelling by ferry from Trinidad to Tobago who have bad intentions.

“That is where a lot of the drugs, illegal weapons and so forth would be getting into Tobago, because no proper check is done of the vehicles coming from Trinidad.

“A comprehensive search of every single vehicle going into Tobago will play a big part to reduce the number of firearms and illegal drugs and so on.”

“There is a certain migration of criminal elements from Trinidad to Tobago.” A new unit could greatly help curb this, he said.

“A specific intelligence unit.

“A proper call centre. It is unbelievable that persons in Tobago will call 999 and that feed goes to the E-999 centre in St James Barracks in Trinidad and then they have to send it back to a police station in Tobago. By that time, the criminal has committed their act and gone.”

He reiterated, “Definitely this is a step in the right direction.” Tobago has had at least ten murders for 2024 (up to late May).