Trinidad and Tobago police group calls for public inquiry

 

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan has denied any political pressure had been brought to bear on the police to make the arrests during the ongoing state of emergency (SOE), even as he said it was a case of inefficiency on the part of the police that caused the cases to collapse.

Ramlogan told a news conference on Thursday that while he applauded the work of the police, they needed help.

“The police service has a handful of legal officers,” he said citing thousands of arrests during the state of emergency. “The legal team is there for the police to consult. Far too often we have seen cases fall through because the police did not act on the right kind of advice and did not do things that they could have done properly and better in the initial stages of the investigation.”

Ramlogan told reporters that the government and the executive arm of the state “cannot exert any pressure on any police officer to arrest or detain anyone.

“The police as an independent law enforcement agency, they have their job to do,” he added.

So far 78 people have been released by the courts because the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Roger Gaspard has indicated there was insufficient evidence to charge them under the law that allows the police to detain someone for up to four months on suspicion of being a member of a criminal gang.

Speaking on local radio Friday, PSWA president Anand Ramesar described Ramlogan’s comments as “insensitive and tasteless” and called for an investigation to determine who should be held responsible for the fiasco.

“I am absolutely disappointed …and I regard it as being very insensitive to the level of commitment that police officers have shown during this period of state of emergency and I am saying the time is ripe now for there to be a public inquiry into the circumstances that led to persons being charged without sufficient evidence.

“Such an inquiry would really identify who are the real persons responsible for this fiasco and I am sure beyond all responsible doubt, police officers will be exonerated totally”.

Ramesar, speaking on local radio here, said police officers had always expressed reservations about the arrest of people under the anti-gang legislation that came into force in August.

He said that two senior police officers had ordered that the people be arrested assuring that there were evidence available to charge them and as a result his men had no other choice but to obey orders.

He said apart from  PSWA, he had personally spoken to two deputy commissioners of police “and those officers would have conveyed to us that they had sufficient evidence to charge notwithstanding that the association as making an inquiry on behalf of those police officers in asking where is the evidence, where is the ethics and morality of giving them instructions to charge when these officers were saying we ought not to charge

“In that context I am saying a public inquiry is the best way to go forward, because it is very distasteful to point fingers at those officers when they had no choice but to follow instructions,” he added.

Nearly 4,000 people have been detained since the SOE was imposed here on August 21, with just over 400 charged for gang related activities.

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