WPC threatens legal action over detention for missing police Galil rifle

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

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A woman police constable who was detained for six days in connection with a missing police-issued Galil rifle at the San Juan sub police station in December 2021, is threatening to take legal action against the State for false imprisonment.

A sergeant, a corporal and eight constables of the San Juan Sub-Station task force were detained by Professional Standards Bureau (PSB) officers after it was reported that on Christmas Eve, an officer was said to have left the weapon, with two magazines, in El Socorro. On returning sometime later he found them missing.

Last week, her attorneys Jagdeo Singh, Richard Jaggasar and Vashisht Seepersad wrote to Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, informing him of their client’s intention to pursue legal action.

Jaggasar said the WPC was treated like a common criminal during her detention yet no charges have ever been laid against her.

The WPC was rostered to work a 25-hour shift at the sub police station on Christmas Day but ended her shift early on Boxing Day after she received permission to attend church with her husband. She received a call from the officer whose rifle had gone missing and returned to the station to assist in looking for it.

The search continued until midday on December 27, but the firearm was not found.

That evening, PSB officers visited the sub police station and asked for a full report to be submitted from the officers at the station. They were also interviewed, including the WPC, and told to visit the MATCO building on Henry Street for further interviews.

The WPC went and she and the other officers were interviewed and also met with head of the PSB, Snr Supt Suzette Martin who asked each officer for a detailed report of everything they did while on duty between Christmas and Boxing Day.

On January 3, while on duty, she was subjected to a body search without a warrant being shown to her. Her wallet, car keys, iPhone, flash drives, police identification card and police badge were taken from her.

She was asked for the password for her phone and after some protest, she gave it. Her locker and vehicle were also searched. The WPC was then taken to the St Joseph police station where, Jaggassar said, “she was treated like a common criminal” and not told she was a suspect or was under arrest.

After three days and still not charges laid against her, she was allowed to call her husband. An interview was also held in the presence of her attorney, Larry Williams, and Jaggassar said it was the first time she heard of a charge of conspiracy to steal a firearm and pervert the course of justice. On January 8, she was allowed to retrieve her belongings from the San Juan sub police station and her lawyer said she was treated with animosity by her co-workers.

“Her reputation has been irreparably damaged as a result.”

Jaggasar said they were of the view the matter ought to be resolved amicably and quickly. However, he said if this fails, they have firm instructions to file the proposed claim for damages against the State.

“In this case, our client is a serving member of the TTPS and has been an officer without issue or complaint for 15 years. During her period of detention, she was kept at a station, without charge and without access to phone calls. She was restrained and prevented from speaking with her husband and (in the case of the first five days) her counsel. She was treated like a common criminal and logged/ registered as a prisoner.”

In January, an acting sergeant of police appeared in court charged with two counts of misbehaviour in public office in relation to the missing Galil rifle assigned to the police.