T&T justice minister slams Top Cop

(Trinidad Guardian) Justice Minister Herbert Volney says that under the leadership of  Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs, the Police Service has become a “runaway service.” “The Police Service at this time, under the leadership of Gibbs, seems to be a service without leadership…It seems to be a service without a leader,” Volney said yesterday.

He made the scathing comments at a media conference at his ministry’s office at Tower C of the Waterfront Complex, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain. The minister’s comments came after a closed-door meeting with Police Complaints Authority (PCA) chairman Gillian Lucky on the investigation into the death of 26-year-old Mt D’Or resident Atiba Duncan, who was shot dead by police near his home last Wednesday.

ASP Neville Sankar is leading investigations into the incident. During the hour-long media conference yesterday, Volney, the United National Congress (UNC) MP for St Joseph, which includes Duncan’s community, was critical of the number of reported police killings in the past two years.

“Any killing of a citizen by a police officer must be done with lawful justification,” he said. “There are many in the Police Service who are too quick to draw for the gun…The gun is a last resort and is to be used in self-defence.” In 2010, there were 52 recorded deaths at the hands of the police, while last year there were 43, according to Volney.

The former High Court judge said since Duncan’s death he had personally investigated the incident by interviewing several eyewitnesses from the community. “From the reports and eyewitnesses I spoke to, this incident appears to be nothing short of a homicidal killing,” Volney said.

An adamant Volney said he was told by witnesses to the shooting that Duncan was in possession of a small amount of marijuana before his confrontation with two officers. “Police have a habit of going into poor communities and causing havoc by looking for small pieces of weed to harass the peaceful residents with,” Volney said.

“You don’t kill a man in this country for being in possession of weed,” Volney insisted. He said although the Mt D’Or area had been plagued by crime in the past, since his tenure as MP began almost two years ago, the community had become a peaceful one.

“I am calling upon Commissioner Gibbs to place officers involved in the shooting on immediate suspension pending the determination of an investigation into Duncan’s death,” Volney said. Duncan, a labourer, was reportedly shot by a police officer who was executing an arrest warrant on him around 10 pm last Wednesday.

He died of his injuries a short while later at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mount Hope. Duncan was shot once in the back. The bullet punctured his lungs, which then filled with blood, according to a post-mortem done at the Forensic Science Centre in St James.

While commenting at the media conference, PCA chairman Lucky also raised the issue of poor communication between the PCA and the Police Service during investigations. “I have driven home the point again to Gibbs that when the PCA asks for information, and when the PCA is requesting to be told where investigations have reached, it must be informed in a timely fashion,” Lucky said.

She noted that in the case involving Duncan, she first learnt of the incident during a conversation with a member of the media.


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