Trinidad Top Cop: Clear and present danger in the mainland

Commissioner of Police, Gary Griffith, responds to a question during the Joint Select Committee into National Security, yesterday.

(Trinidad Guardian) In a bid to pro­tect T&T’s mar­itime bor­ders from il­le­gal mi­grants, pira­cy, kid­nap­ping, and smug­gling of guns and drugs in­to T&T the Po­lice Ser­vice in­tends to es­tab­lish an elite air unit from to­mor­row.

This was re­vealed at a Joint Se­lect Com­mit­tee (JSC) in­to Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty, chaired by Fitzger­ald Hinds, where Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Gary Grif­fith and Deputy Com­mis­sion­ers De­o­dath Du­lalchan and Harold Phillip were grilled in­to the op­er­a­tions of the TTPS at Tow­er D, Par­lia­ment Build­ing, Port-of-Spain.

Mem­ber Roodal Mooni­lal ques­tioned Grif­fith what was the po­lice plan to pro­tect T&T’s mar­itime bor­ders in light of in­fil­tra­tion of il­le­gal mi­grants and crim­i­nals com­ing in via the sea, while there were six lo­cal fish­er­men who were re­cent­ly kid­napped.

Grif­fith said the TTPS had in­ten­si­fied its ef­forts to pro­tect the coun­try’s sea bor­ders by work­ing with in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing and in­for­ma­tion gath­ered would be fil­tered back to the Coast Guard, Cus­toms and Ex­cise, Strate­gic Ser­vices Agency, De­fence Force and Im­mi­gra­tion Di­vi­sion.

“We in­tend to have a covert op­er­a­tive unit to en­sure that we can have in­di­vid­u­als who can pro­vide in­for­ma­tion to us with­out the crim­i­nal be­ing aware. We will have troops that will work covert and overt in the right man­ner to en­sure that we can have that bor­der se­cured.”

Grif­fith said he had no in­ten­tion of shirk­ing his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

Hav­ing heard com­plaints that some mem­bers of the TTPS, who worked at Ica­cos, Ce­dros, La Breas and Erin had been work­ing with gun and drug run­ners, Grif­fith said some of­fi­cers were asked to take a poly­graph test and those who re­fused were trans­ferred and an elite unit was cre­at­ed to crack down on the il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties.

“In the very near fu­ture, we in­tend to utilise air sur­veil­lance in the TTPS. It will be com­ple­ment­ed by the drones. We will be able to mon­i­tor that penin­su­la on a 24/7 ba­sis in re­al time through the Na­tion­al Op­er­a­tions Com­mand Cen­tre. So what you go­ing to get is re­al-time footage mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion hav­ing prop­er in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing mak­ing sure that we have the right po­lice of­fi­cers we can trust,” Grif­fith said.

Mooni­lal said this was the first time he heard of such a unit in the TTPS and pressed Grif­fith to ex­plain its func­tions and sta­tus.

“We are aware that there is a clear and present dan­ger in deal­ing with that is hap­pen­ing in the main­land. We will be re­de­ploy­ing per­son­nel from spe­cif­ic ar­eas in­to the unit that we can see that will be a greater con­cern. And that is be­ing done by Feb­ru­ary 1,” Grif­fith said.

Grif­fith said while the TTPS had an air di­vi­sion us­ing drones these were not of high stan­dard.

“The drones are just a high­er stan­dard to what you would get in “Toys R Us (a toy store). We need to move with the times.”

Mooni­lal told Grif­fith that the Air Unit was crit­i­cal, giv­en the chal­lenges we faced in Venezuela, ask­ing if the drones need­ed to be im­proved tech­nol­o­gy wise.

Grif­fith said the im­prove­ment of the drones would in­volve tak­ing footage for sev­er­al hours on and off Coast Guard ves­sels.

“We must get re­al-time video footage. This is what we have pre­pared …this would be done with­in a few days. And by do­ing that we would be able to mon­i­tor and lock the bor­ders as quick­ly as pos­si­ble,” Grif­fith re­spond­ed.

The com­mis­sion­er al­so stat­ed that the TTPS need­ed the use of he­li­copters as well for sur­veil­lance and “to en­sure the move­ment of troops…say an im­me­di­ate re­sponse by some of the elite units in case of a volatile sit­u­a­tion. We are look­ing at that. But I think from the con­cept of us­ing he­li­copters be­cause of cost, this is some­thing we have been work­ing with Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­is­ter and through the Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Coun­cil I think some­thing is be­ing pre­pared.”

On Mon­day, Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­is­ter Stu­art Young held a meet­ing with heads of law en­force­ment, bor­der se­cu­ri­ty of­fi­cials and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies.

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