David West –
WITH increasing reports against police officers, the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) in its annual report has advised the Police Service Commission (PSC) that it be the sole independent body to investigate the two top offices in the police.
The recommendation was one of 28 sent to either the PSC or the Commissioner of Police (CoP) in the PCA’s annual report for the accounting period of last year which was laid in Parliament on Wednesday.
The advice said: “Investigations into allegations of criminal or disciplinary actions by the CoP and or DCP should be conducted by the PCA, as the sole independent civilian oversight body in Trinidad and Tobago.”
The PSC has authority over the three deputy commissioners and the police commissioner.
The other 27 recommendations given in the 126 page report were for the Police Commissioner. They included annual psychological assessments of officers and, based on the results, officers could be referred for mandatory counselling.
The PCA also said officers should be reminded of and retrained in the Police Standing Orders. Those include the need to identify themselves using their identification cards so the public could be assured they were legitimate officers, and reading out and showing search warrants to those whose premises were being searched.
The PCA, led by David West, also recommended an amendment that would allow officers to provide a copy to the owners when searches were to be conducted.
That lawyers should be allowed private conversation with clients while in custody, was another advice offered.
Contacted for comment, West said each of the recommendations received a response but he was not going to say what the responses were.
When asked to clarify the advice, particularly with regard to the PCA investigating the top two positions in the police, West said he was not going to discuss the advice given either.
The report also showed an increase in the number of police officers being investigated for murders when compared to the previous year.
In 2022, 64 officers were investigated for 33 allegations of murder,
In the previous year, 47 officers were investigated for alleged murders. There was a reduction in the allegations of shooting with intent from 25 in 2021 to 21 last year. Deaths while in police custody also reduced, going from one in 2021 to none last year. Misbehaviour in public office also saw a decrease, with 145 officers being accused in 2021 and only 114 such complaints last year.
Police officers, the report showed, had an increase in the number of them accused of harassment with 32 officers in 2022 and 11 the previous year. Allegations of common assault and assault by beating also saw an increase, with 44 and 77 officers respectively being investigated for the offence.
The previous accounting period had 27 and 66 officers being accused respectively.
There was an increase of four times the previous reported period for indecent assault as eight officers were investigated by the PCA last year compared to two the previous year. The other offence that saw such a large increase was perverting the course of justice, as 31 officers were under the PCA’s microscope for that offence compared to ten the previous year.
Of the 485 matters completed by the PCA, out of 569 that were within its remit to investigate, 410 were closed with no further action, 45 were sent to the Police Commissioner, 26 forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions and four sent to both the DPP and the CoP.
On Sunday, West and Deputy Director Michelle Solomon-Baksh were guests on the Eye on Dependency programme on i95 FM where he noted an increase in the number of complaints made against police.
In his advice to the CoP, he asked that officers wear their body cameras on official exercises to help refute allegations of untoward activity.