PCA probing 44 police-involved killings

The Po­lice Com­plaints Au­thor­i­ty (PCA) has record­ed 44 deaths in po­lice-in­volved shoot­ings. The killings have oc­curred in just 33 in­ci­dents PCA head David West told the T&T Guardian Thursday.

How­ev­er, sta­tis­tics dis­closed by the T&T Po­lice Ser­vice to Guardian Me­dia Thurs­day stat­ed that there have been 42 fa­tal po­lice-in­volved shoot­ings so far for 2018 thus far. In 2017 there were 46.

But Pro­fes­sion­al Stan­dards Bu­reau’s In­sp Sheri­don Hill gave the as­sur­ance that all po­lice-in­volved shoot­ings are in­ves­ti­gat­ed thor­ough­ly. Speak­ing on CNC3’s Morn­ing Brew Thurs­day, Hill dis­tanced po­lice from the term “ex­tra-ju­di­cial killings.”

“We don’t use the term ex­tra-ju­di­cial killings in the TTPS be­cause it im­plies some sort of plan, some sort of in­struc­tion to go out there and kill…that is not the case as there is a use of force pol­i­cy in the TTPS that we ad­here too,” Hill said.

“Every sin­gle po­lice-in­volved shoot­ing is thor­ough­ly in­ves­ti­gat­ed by se­nior of­fi­cers with­in the TTPS. It be­gins in the di­vi­sions where these shoot­ings oc­cur where the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is con­duct­ed by a First Di­vi­sion of­fi­cer then the files goes through oth­er se­niors then it comes to us at the Pro­fes­sion­al Stan­dards Bu­reau.”

Since the PSB be­came es­tab­lished in 2011 and ful­ly func­tion­al in 2012, Hill said he has on­ly been aware of three cas­es in re­la­tion to po­lice-in­volved shoot­ings. In one case, he said six of­fi­cers were charged and are cur­rent­ly be­fore the court and in the oth­er two cas­es – one of which in­volves, five of­fi­cers –, Hill said the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions has al­ready made rec­om­men­da­tions for the mat­ter to be dealt with in a par­tic­u­lar way.

He as­sured that the PSB does not pro­tect of­fi­cers who are found to have act­ed il­le­gal­ly, adding just last week al­most every day a po­lice of­fi­cer had been charged ei­ther for mis­be­hav­iour in pub­lic of­fice, fraud or as­sault.

“We have pros­e­cut­ed over 150 of­fi­cers and every day a tri­bunal sits and deals with dis­ci­pli­nary in­frac­tions with the po­lice of­fi­cers…we al­so have of­fi­cers who have been dis­missed from the po­lice ser­vice,” Hill said.

Asked if there was a time lim­it to deal with po­lice-in­volved shoot­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions, Hill said no but added that the rea­son was that crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions are so dy­nam­ic and de­pend on avail­abil­i­ty of ev­i­dence wit­ness­es and get­ting the bal­lis­tics re­port from the Foren­sics Sci­ence Cen­tre (FSC), which he said usu­al­ly takes a while.

Ear­li­er this week Com­mis­sion­er of Po­lice Gary Grif­fith, in re­mind­ing the pub­lic that he be­gan the call for the ac­qui­si­tion of non-lethal weapons for use with­in the ser­vice, said on record that in cas­es where a sus­pect fires at po­lice of­fi­cers the ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponse is to shoot to kill.

Grif­fith made this state­ment sub­se­quent to Tues­day’s in­ci­dent in Ma­tu­ri­ta, Ari­ma, when three peo­ple were killed dur­ing a po­lice op­er­a­tion. In that in­ci­dent, Ted­dy Singh, Tony Keron Joseph and Clace Daniel Phillip were killed by of­fi­cers dur­ing a shootout at a shack lo­cat­ed in a forest­ed area off Dump Road. Singh, who es­caped from po­lice cus­tody while at the Ari­ma Mag­is­trates’ Court on May 15, was Joseph’s broth­er-in-law. The rel­a­tives of Joseph and Phillip have since called for an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the PCA.

Fix­in’ T&T’s head, Kirk Wait­he, who al­so spoke on the Morn­ing Brew yes­ter­day, de­scribed Grif­fith’s “One shot, one kill” pol­i­cy as “sim­ply dan­ger­ous.”

Wait­he said the “one shot, one kill, mantra” is in­con­sis­tent with the train­ing of po­lice of­fi­cers and with ef­fec­tive polic­ing.

“We’ve been work­ing with the po­lice ser­vice since 2005. We take so­lace in the knowl­edge that po­lice of­fi­cers in T&T un­der­stand what polic­ing is all about and ap­pre­ci­ate the prin­ci­ple of pro­por­tion­al re­sponse, the prin­ci­ple of equal force and the prin­ci­ples of mit­i­gat­ing,” Wait­he said.

“One shot, one kill is sim­ply dan­ger­ous and not ef­fec­tive…as a mat­ter of fact, we be­lieve that con­sis­tent with that mantra, that ac­tu­al­ly put the lives of of­fi­cers at greater risks. The com­mis­sion­er is wrong about that and that must stop!”

Pro­tract­ed probes a prob­lem - West

Po­lice Com­plaints Au­thor­i­ty head David West says one of the ma­jor con­cerns about in­ves­ti­ga­tions in­to po­lice-in­volved shoot­ing in­ci­dents is that the in­ves­ti­ga­tors as­signed by the T&T Po­lice Ser­vice (TTPS) are close to re­tire­ment.

“So the in­ves­ti­ga­tions are usu­al­ly pro­tract­ed be­cause files have been lost, mis­placed and not re­as­signed,” West said.

He al­so said an­oth­er con­cern is that of­fi­cers who dis­charge weapons do not pro­vide re­ports in a time­ly man­ner.

“Bod­ies are dragged from the scene. This com­pro­mis­es the scene and is in­hu­mane. Bod­ies are in some cas­es washed be­fore test­ing for gun­pow­der residue. There is a huge back­log at Foren­sic Sci­ence Cen­tre (FSC), so test­ing bal­lis­tics takes a long time and no time­ly re­trieval of CCTV footage and da­ta is lost,” West said.

“There are no body cam­eras. No in­de­pen­dent sci­en­tif­ic record. No ID badges. Of­fi­cers are wear­ing masks,” he added.

Reporter: Rhondor Dowlat

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