Former Police Commissioner Gary Griffith is looking forward to the merit list for Police Commissioner —on which his name appears—going forward to the selection process and remains undeterred by the criticisms in former Police Service Commission chairman Bliss Seepersad’s September 25, 2020 letter to him.
Griffith confirmed this following revelation of Seepersad’s comments in an exclusive Sunday Guardian article yesterday. The article highlighted Seepersad’s September 25, 2020 letter to Griffith, where she (Seepersad) said Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had written to the PSC on September 16, 2020 expressing “serious concerns about unacceptable behaviour” on Griffith’s part and questioning “his suitability to continue” holding the office of commissioner.
Rowley’s letter followed the September 2020 clash between himself and Griffith on the Bayside Towers pool party COVID-19 protocol breach issue.
On September 12, 2020, Rowley had called on the T&T Police Service to treat all citizens equally regarding the enforcement of public health regulations, after public furore over how the police handled the matter, which saw several people breach the public health protocols by engaging in social activity at the property’s pool. Griffith publicly challenged Rowley on the issue with various statements.
However, it was only last month that Rowley said he’d written to the PSC last year saying he’d lost confidence in Griffith. He gave the media no reasons beyond that he used his “judgement” to do so.
In Seepersad’s September 2020 letter to Griffith, she summarised Rowley’s complaint, including some of Griffith’s public statements, text messages from Griffith to Rowley, continued messaging and exchanges with Rowley.
As a result, Seepersad said, “The Honourable Prime Minister and chairman of the National Security Council has lost confidence in you as Commissioner of Police and does not know what to expect of you going forward.”
Among her points, Seepersad added, “The National Security Council is one of the most sensitive institutional arrangements of State in the country and cannot be expected to be populated by an officer who is irrational, erratic, disrespectful, accusatory and unreliable.”
On October 1, Griffith announced that he’d apologised to Rowley in writing.
Last Thursday when contacted by Guardian Media on the matter, Griffith had said the issue with the Prime Minister was resolved and they had moved on. Griffith also noted that the issue wasn’t part of PSC’s assessment of him, Government subsequently changed the law for him specifically to act as CoP after his contract ended in August and he was shortlisted by PSC for the acting CoP post. Therefore, he felt Seepersad’s letter/report can’t be used against him.
Yesterday, however, Griffith took issue with the words of Seepersad, who, he claimed, breached regulations, withdrew the CoP merit list from President’s House without authorisation, alleged he “interfered” in an investigation when Justice Stanley John’s letter showed otherwise, tried to suspend a CoP without authorisation and refused to rescind it when other PSC commissioners said she should.
“The last person we should hear from is her. Instead, there should be a police probe of misbehaviour in public office or sedition to try to remove a sitting CoP illegally,” Griffith said.
Griffith said there were only 10 people at any point at the Bayside pool—not 40 and he had no intention of breaching people’s constitutional rights.
“If that deemed me guilty of being ‘erratic and indisciplined’, then I’m guilty. But as I did six years ago when I operated in the same manner, I won’t breach my oath of office, citizens’ rights or lie,’’ he said.
“The Prime Minister has a responsibility to consider the will of the people over personal/political agendas. This obviously wasn’t done. As CoP, I had to operate within the law, not personal whim, which I did courageously daily.
“The vast majority of people in T&T didn’t find me erratic, irrational or disrespectful, so instead of Gary Griffith, perhaps it’s his own judgement the PM really ought to be questioning.”
He said the National Security Council was a Cabinet committee lacking constitutional authority or authority to operationalise the TTPS. Griffith said there seemed to be a desperate attempt to find “red herrings” to justify not appointing him CoP and getting the list to Parliament.
He also questioned the leak of Seepersad’s letter, adding it seemed certain people’s efforts to discredit him was of more relevance than the upcoming Tobago House of Assembly polls. Griffith said all interference should stop, including leaks which some might hope can alter selection and cause loss of confidence in a candidate.
Seepersad yesterday didn’t respond to texted queries on Griffith’s statements.