Lawmen within special units within the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) will be equipped with body cameras, Minister of National Security Stuart Young said on Monday as it was also announced that a full-scale investigation is being conducted into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of two suspects while in police custody.
Young said he had been informed by Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith at a meeting earlier in the day, that the Special Operations Response Team (SORT), the Inter-Agency Task Force and Guard and Emergency Branch would be among the first to get uniforms with special clips for body cameras and radios and a belt with pepper spray and tasers.
“The body cameras will now defend my police officers when they are wrongfully accused,” Griffith said after the meeting.
The disclosures came as the police commissioner also announced the probe being conducted into the deaths of suspects Andrew Morris and Joel Balcon.
Officers from SORT are among those now subject to the investigation.
Griffith said in a statement that apart from the TTPS conducting an investigation, the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) is conducting a parallel probe.
Morris and Balcon were suspects in the kidnapping and subsequent death of 23-year-old court clerk Andrea Bharatt, who went missing on January 29. Her decomposed body was found down a precipice on February 4.
“People are reaching a final conclusion without knowing what has transpired. We are doing a thorough investigation both by the Police Service and the PCA. For persons to be making false and misleading accusations, it is not helping the situation in any way. It is inappropriate for people to be making accusations and who by their accusations, have already found police officers guilty without getting the facts,” Griffith said.
“These would include the Law Association, an Opposition Senator, and a person who received one per cent of the votes in an area he contested in an election. I have heard comments about a prisoner dying after falling from a chair. At no time did any police officer or myself say that an individual died because he fell from a chair. That never took place.”
Commissioner Griffith insisted that excellent work was done by the various units of the TTPS in their investigations by finding the four persons responsible for Bharatt’s kidnapping and death, and they should be commended.
He added that no one had asked about the well being of the officers who were injured when they went to arrest suspects in the matter.
Griffith said he had also taken note that a newspaper had published over the weekend that it had video footage of an incident relating to this matter, but the TTPS had no such video footage. He therefore asked anyone with information who could assist in this matter to come forward and present it to the TTPS.
Commissioner Griffith insisted there would be no cover-up, noting that since he became top cop in August 2018, 96 police officers were charged with various offences including kidnapping, human trafficking, robbery with aggravation and assault, while another 86 were suspended.