(Trinidad Guardian) Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith is looking to clamp down on the long list of officers serving indefinite suspensions due to criminal charges noting the state is paying some $50 million annually on these officers.
He revealed his plan during a Joint Select Committee dealing with the expenditure and internal controls of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) for the financial year 2018-19 at the Parliament building yesterday.
“We must never see the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service as being an avenue where you can benefit from being indisciplined,” said Griffith, who confirmed that over 300 officers were on suspension with pay despite facing criminal charges.
He said some of the officers had been suspended with pay for almost a decade but due to legal ramifications these officers cannot simply be dismissed from the service.
“We have intelligence (which) can give the police service the concern that a police officer should not be in the police service because he is a breach to national security. You can suspend him but you cannot fire him because that same police officer now will take you to court and show me the evidence that (you have used) to fire me,” Griffith said.
He said when taking into account salary payments and legal fees surrounding these cases, over $500 million had been paid in relation to the suspended officers over a 10-year period.
He pointed out that while the state was bearing these costs, many of these officers have since used their indefinite suspension period to find other opportunities while still on the TTPS payroll.
“Some of them we have already confirmed, some of these officers have migrated. Several of them are working elsewhere and getting double salary.
“So my intention is for those who have been suspended indefinitely, we need to verify whether we have enough information to warrant a tribunal,” Griffith said, noting he was attempting to adjust the legal system within the TTPS to allow for the dismissal of these officers through a tribunal in a timely basis.
“Each and everyone we intend to deal with and fast track, to ensure that police officers would either be brought back to duty, the suspension would end or they are suspended with a specific timeline as to how long the suspension would be or they would be fired,” said Griffith.
“There are several instances as well where there is enough information based on the tribunal that can warrant that police officer being fired.
“This will ensure police officers are aware that there are consequences. There will be consequences for your actions and you cannot try to beat the system and find loopholes in the criminal justice system.”
He said granting officers contracts was an option which could be used to root out truant officers.
Griffith said this adjustment would bring some balance to manpower concerns within the police while also reducing costs incurred by the police service annually.
“This is in fairness to the citizens, to the police officer and to the police service.
“It is inappropriate that you have a system of 300 police officers in just 7,000 that are on suspension indefinitely,” said Griffith, who revealed that the TTPS was in debt of $47 million as it was still paying bills from the fiscal year 2017 -2018.
“We have recurring expenditure.
“As at this time, we have not received anything for fiscal year 2018/2019, apart from the salaries.”