Top cop Christopher duck JSC meeting to deal with ‘urgent national security’ matter

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Commissioner of Police Erla Christopher. FILE PHOTO –

MEMBERS of a Joint Select Committee on crime on Wednesday expressed their disappointment that newly appointed Police Commissioner Erla Christopher was not at its meeting after confirming she would be attending during her period when she acted in the top cop post.

Before the committee heard from acting DCP Curt Simon (Intelligence and investigations), ACP criminal Division Winston Maharaj and Snr Supt Kerwin Francis in charge of the Northern Division, both the chair of the JSC Keith Scotland and member Jayanti Lutchmedial chastised the Commissioner for her non-appearance.

Scotland said who indicated that a matter of “urgent national security” caused Christopher’s absence, she only on Tuesday conveyed her inability to appear after confirming her attendance while she acted in the position.

“We can’t under-state the crucial significance (for her appearance) at the next hearing not just for the committee but the country” Scotland told the three men.

He later informed them that the JSC will meet again on February 27 and her presence was expected.

Lutchmedial said Christopher acted in the position long enough and had been a member of the police executive long enough to know the significance of a JSC.

She said the purpose of the JSC was to highlight the inner workings of the police service “at a time when we have a record breaking murder rate” and reports of police paraphernalia or imitation paraphernalia as well as marked police ammunition found at crime scenes.

She added that on the heels of a unanimous selection she was disappointed in Christopher’s non-appearance adding that the top cop “must bear in mind that the buck stops with the head of the organisation.”

At the end of the JSC, the men were reminded that on the next occasion the Police Commissioner is expected to be present and whoever accompanies her should have answers in writing on several matters.

These matters include: an update on the operationalising of pepper spray, Tasers and use of force policy; a report on the procurement of the portable scanners detailing when they arrived in the country, the cost both purchase and maintenance, how long were they down for and how long were they operational before they were no longer working; a policy of standardising and modernising of police uniforms; what are collaborative efforts between police and customs specifically in dealing with guns entering through the legal ports and what recommendations the police have to improve this relationship; the status on CCTV operated by the police; the total amount of money raised during carnival periods in the last two carnivals and what the monies are used for and what legal advise the police received to use portable scanners.

The men, in answering questions posed by the committee members, said that the police were operating with a new mandate and are using both the technology and legislation to reduce crime and expect to see results this month and moving forward.

Maharaj said: “There will be some level of control, a downward trend, in the perpetration of crime in February and moving forward. We are confident in the strategies in place, the old methods perhaps have outlived its usefulness and we have a new paradigm, a new direction and that is the direction that we are going in.”

Maharaj was at the time responding to a question posed by Dr Paul Richards who asked what strategies were in place to deal with murders given that the Strategic Security Agency (SSA) said between 2019 and 2021 there was a 38 per cent reduction in the number of gangs and a 57 per cent decrease in gang members. Maharaj said some of the previous measures in place did not yield the results expected and are now re-strategising.

Addressing the issue of police officers at events and the perception that it was being used to fatten pockets of police officers, Simon said that the system came from an anecdotal calculation that has now been addressed with fete promoters. He added that the promoters were given a matrix of how the billing works and a policy document to direct them on how many officers are needed for event based varying factors including size, number of bars and other issues.

The document and matrix are being reviewed by the promoters, Newsday was told.

Simon said for Carnival officers will be having a blanket security throughout the country and for the first time, police officers are being called out this early to support the plan. He added that the police will be augmented by the Defence Force, traffic wardens and municipal police and is expecting a safe Carnival 2023 as each division’s command centre will be linked with a central command centre for rapid response to issues arising.

Addressing the concerns of police issued ammunition found at crime scenes and police clothing and other paraphernalia found in possession of criminals, Simon told the committee that Christopher is concerned about this.

He said the police executive will be meeting with the private security firms as they use similar paraphernalia as the police seek legislative support to address the use of their clothing and tools by criminals. One of the ways to address it he said will be police uniforms fitted with radio frequency identification (RFID).