(Trinidad Express) Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams yesterday said the police had a legal obligation to provide crime statistics to the public and the National Security Minister had no authority to stop that.
Williams made the statement at yesterday’s police briefing at the police headquarters at Sackville Street, Port of Spain.
“I received no instructions from the minister in relation to any gag on the police in disseminating information on murders and other forms of crime,” Williams said yesterday.
“I want to assure the public that I have received no instructions from the Minister of National Security, which I heard reference to as a gag on the police,” he said.
“I want to give clear assurance that we in the Police Service have not taken any position to refuse to disseminate information to the public. We are under a legal obligation to provide statistics to the public and we will fulfil the legal obligation,” he added.
Williams and other high-ranking police officials met with National Security Minister Jack Warner on Tuesday afternoon, but said at no time did any of the officers receive any directive to stop making crime statistics public. Just hours before that meeting, however, Warner had said he was meeting with the men to give those specific instructions.
“The Minister gave me no instructions and I believe the minister is fully aware that he cannot give the Commissioner of Police instructions in relation to matters such as dissemination of statistics to the media or the general public,” Williams said.
“It is not a matter on which the Minister of National Security has the authority to instruct the Commissioner of Police. I am making it clear, hoping that it would be crystal clear: I have received no instructions,” he reiterated.
But Williams refused to divulge what was discussed at that meeting, saying he would not discuss “confidential” police matters in the media and did not expect the other attendees to do so either.
“I did meet with the Minister of National Security at 2 p.m. (on Tuesday) and the minister shared some concerns around the dissemination of information on murders by the Police Service. He raised concerns in relation to the police dissemination of information on matters of murder, but I received no instructions and the minister has no authority to issue instructions to the Police Service on an operational issue,” he said.
He said, though, the Police Service would “adopt a particular process to disseminate information” to the media and, by extension, the public. He said “troops on the ground” should already know they do not have the authority to communicate police information to the public.
“Troops need to have permission from the Commissioner of Police before disseminating information,” he said.
With regard to Warner’s statement that the latest Laventille killing was “sponsored” by the People’s National Movement (PNM) and was in fact a “PNM murder”, Williams said he did not know what a “PNM murder” was.
“I don’t know. What is a PNM murder? I am not in the position to answer the categorisation of the murder as a PNM murder. I try my best not to respond to statements by politicians,” Williams said.
He said the country was currently living in a “charged political environment” and he preferred to “stay away from politics”.