Port of Spain municipal cop charged with murder

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

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A Port of Spain City Police officer has been charged with murder and is expected to appear in the High Court on April 24.

On April 22, Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard SC advised that Josiah Diaz, 25, of Mt Pleasant Road, Arima, be charged for the murder of Ronaldo Cedeno, 32, of Acono Road, Maracas, St Joseph.

A police statement said Diaz was arrested by officers of the Homicide Bureau of Investigations after extensive investigations were conducted into the shooting death of Cedeno on March 22.

Reports say that around 5.57 pm, Diaz was driving a marked police vehicle at South Quay, Port of Spain, when Cedeno allegedly threw a stone at the vehicle, breaking the front right door window. The officer allegedly pulled out his service-issued firearm and fired one shot at the assailant, hitting him in the upper body.

Diaz took Cedeno to the Port of Spain General Hospital where he was treated and pronounced dead at 6.30 pm.

The investigation was supervised by W/Ag ASP Bridglal, Inspectors John and Mongroo and, Ag Insp Ramsumair of the HBI, Region One. Charges were laid by WPC Morgan-Job of the HBI, Region One Office.

The murder brought the nation’s murder rate for 2024 to 176.

Assistant commissioner Surendra Sagramsingh, head of the PoS Municipal Police, said it was very unfortunate for a situation like that to happen to any law-enforcement agency.

He added that the Municipal Police did not question the charge, that the presumption of innocence was sacrosanct and Diaz’s fellow officers could only wait for the judgment of the court.

Asked about the organisation’s use-of-force policy, he said it operated under the guideline of the premiere law-enforcement office, the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.

“The use of force is really a continuum. Issues can occur whereby the situation can escalate incrementally as well as it could escalate from zero to 100 within minutes or seconds. At the end of the day, you as the officer have to be cognisant of all situations, and based on how the situation is unfolding, you are required to act responsibly.

“In doing so we expect that all police officers be armed with all the accoutrements that will be required to deal with situations. Not all have to be lethal. That’s why they give you batons, pepper spray and things like that to treat with situations so you don’t have to resort to lethal force.”

Sagramsingh told Newsday whenever there was an investigation into an officer with a serious charge, like a murder, the law-enforcement department with which the accused was associated supported the investing team in every possible way including providing files, reports or answering questions.

He said, depending on the situation, an officer was only suspended from duty when they were charged. If it was believed the presence of the officer could hinder the investigation they would be suspended with full pay during the course of the investigation.

“If there is an interdiction, what needs to be done is to evaluate the situation and see commitments the person would have had with their salary to see what part of the salary would be removed.

“They can’t give you no salary. The rule of interdiction is they must not take more than half the salary because sometimes there are levels of indebtedness. It’s not a punitive measure you’re taking that the whole family would suffer.”

Sagramsingh said there was no mechanism to financially support the defence of an officer charged with a crime but, like any other citizen, they could engage a public defender or pay for an attorney themselves.

He added that if Diaz’s fellow officers were called to give evidence they would support the process in its entirety.