The individuals who attended a pool party at Bayside Towers in Cocorite recently are not off the hook just yet, Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith said yesterday.
Speaking during the T&T Police Service press briefing yesterday, Griffith said an investigation is still being conducted into the incident.
“In this investigation, if we find out, what we have heard is some of these individuals were not residents of Trinidad and Tobago, we will check and realise whether they have documentation to be here. And even if they do, persons can be removed from this country if they are deemed (A) a threat to national security or (B) a liability to the public purse,” warned Griffith, as he denied that the group had been let off easy by the TTPS due to their class or ethnicity.
After news of the Bayside Towers event was reported, many on social media questioned the relative leniency meted out to those in attendance, in comparison to the public embarrassment experienced by Sea Lots residents and others arrested at a party in St James last month. In the former incident, Commissioner Griffith himself had several teenagers apologise to him, after they recorded a social media video hurling expletives at the Commissioner while sea-bathing. In the latter, the TTPS published images of the partygoers after stopping a “Zesser” fete. And during the first phase of the COVID pandemic, police also raided a guest house in St Ann’s on April 19 and arrested and charged persons who were attending a party there for breaching the health ordinance as it related to public gatherings.
Griffith made reference to the Sea Lots incident, reminding that those teenagers were not arrested.
“They are saying all of these individuals should all have been arrested because they were held but there was a certain Gary Griffith that they were 27 persons that I held in Sea Lots and I warned them and they were let go and that was not a problem then. Just about a month and a half ago, 17 persons were swimming at the bay next to Bayside, from Sea Lots to Carenage and St James and none of them were arrested and that was not an issue,” he said.
He also reminded of the raid on the guest house where a COVID sex party was taking place.
“So again, you can’t have a private property where you have a cover charge, it not only becomes a public place, a public space. So you can’t have an open house where you have alcohol being sold, consumed and the level of the noise, persons paying a cover charge, it no longer becomes a private property because you’re actually charging members of the public to enter.
“If you have your private property where you have invited individuals, it can make it difficult. I do not want this to be used as an opportunity for individuals, for persons to say ah-ha, so that is what we can do. This is where common sense and maturity needs to step in for persons to understand the bigger picture.”
Griffith, however, explained that there was some ambiguity concerning the police’s ability to act on social gatherings at private premises.
“The law is public place, so if you have your home and private property the police have to be very careful. So in this situation, this was a gated community and my point is, suppose 20 persons in a gated community all decide to go to the pool at the same time, is the police supposed to clear the first five who arrive and arrest the other 15? It is very difficult in this situation, which is why it is Minister Deyalsingh and others have stated people need to be professional, mature,” Griffith said.
Earlier in the day, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh similarly pointed out this grey area in the law during the Ministry of Health virtual press briefing and said he would consult the Attorney General concerning what adjustments can be made.
However, Griffith said the public should not hold private parties because of the uncertainty concerning the police’s reach in such matters.
“I would advise us, let us not go down that road, if people are trying to abuse the position that the police would be placed in, it is going to defeat all that good that is being done by the laws,” he said.
“This is where common sense kicks in, which is again going back to the situation with the landlord. The landlord was trying to persuade the individual or individuals who threw the party, they did not listen, so they brought in the police. The police, we can’t abuse our authority, I have to be very clear and adhere to the law.”
He that there were other methods police could use to nab those looking to party.