West: Only CoP can grant firearm licences

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar addresses the audience at the May 27 launch of the Star Team that will contest next month’s UNC internal elections. – Photo courtesy Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s Facebook page

United National Congress (UNC) leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s promise to arm all off-duty police and prison officers with licensed guns provided by the State will require legislative amendments.

Persad-Bissessar, endorsing the Star Team slate on Monday night in Couva for the upcoming UNC internal election, said, “Tonight I tell all police and prison officers, under my next government, I will ensure personal FULs (firearms user’s licences) and personal legal firearms for each of you,”

Newsday spoke briefly with David West, head of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA), who reiterated that granting all officers a gun and licence for protection is currently the remit of the Commissioner of Police (CoP).

“Unless the law is amended the CoP continues to be the only person with discretion to grant any citizen an FUL licence,” he said.

West declined to comment when asked if he agreed with Persad-Bissessar’s view that all officers should be armed off-duty for protection, with guns and licences paid for by the State.

Persad-Bissessar suggested police are often unfairly treated, and vowed to protect them.

“I want to make it clear to every citizen, that if you point a gun at or attack a police officer to endanger his or her life, the police have a right to defend themselves with lethal force,” she said on Monday.

“Tonight, I tell all officers of the TTPS, if criminals point a gun at you, shoot at you or attack you: return fire with full force, defend yourselves, do not be hesitant.

“Being hesitant can cost you your life. I am in full support of our police officers standing their ground against violent criminals.”

In response, West said there are already policies governing police use of deadly force against criminals.

“There is a TTPS use of force policy which guides police officers in the execution of their duties,” he said. “Whenever there is a fatal police-involved shooting, the PCA initiates its own investigation, ascertains the facts and issues a recommendation or advice to the Director of Public Prosecutions or CoP, as the case may be.”

Newsday has not yet got a reaction from the Police Social and Welfare Association.