The introduction of pepper spray to compliment less-lethal conducted electrical weapon (tasers) has been long overdue, according to criminologist Darius Figuera.
Figuera was commenting on Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith announcement on Tuesday that officers will be using pepper spray from Monday, as he expressed his concern about the training of officers in the area of subduing civilians in volatile situations.
Figuera said the move would finally bring Trinidad and Tobago out of the colonial model of policing we inherited.
“We have continued from 1962, until next week Monday, we have continued to outfit our officers in a democracy as if you live in colonial order,” he said.
“So we have continued with choices of baton or bullet.”
Figuera said the introduction of such devices were far too late.
Concerning a recent incident where an officer was physically assaulted while attempting to hand a ticket to a man in East Port-of-Spain, as well as another incident where two Venezuelan nationals escaped police custody after a struggle with officers, the criminologist, like Griffith a day earlier, questioned the training of the officers.
“It is clearly apparent the officers were never fully exposed to a fundamental system of self-defence,” said Figuera.
He highlighted the officer in the Port-of-Spain incident, noting his decision to place a hand around the neck of the man, while not subduing his arms, left him open to retaliation.
“That is bad policing. You have placed yourself in jeopardy,” Figuera said.
The criminologist said the approach from the officers seemed to come from a belief that the public will react or behave simply because they are a police officer, as opposed to accessing situations to react correctly.
On Tuesday, Griffith said the three officers in the two separate incidents got it wrong in the situations and as a result, he will be looking into new training for his officers.
Figuera also said the recent rise in home invasions was connected to the rise in unemployment rates in the country caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. He said what was alarming was the level of violence associated with such actions, especially as these invasions usually involved what were considered soft targets such as the elderly.