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FLASHBACK – A group of SORT officers at the shooting scene of Glean Bain took place along Laventille Road, San Juan, in February 2020. (Image: ABRAHAM DIAZ)
RADHICA DE SILVA
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Former Police Commissioner Gary Griffith says people are concerned about the dismantling of the National Security apparatus which he put in place to curb crime.

Acknowledging messages about a major reshuffling of specialist units within the TTPS, and the dismantling of Special Operations Response Team (SORT) which Griffith set up with specially trained officers, the former Commissioner said he will reserve comment on the developments.

However, he divulged the concerns which were brought to him.

“As many would know SORT was my brainchild so it was understandable that people felt the need to contact me. Whilst reserving personal comment, I will share what others had to say,” Griffith said.

He noted that people have asked why the Coast Guard’s SNU hasn’t been shut down because one of their own killed a policeman yesterday?

“This person also questioned why they targeted SORT, since they were only responsible for about 10 per cent of all police killings, when other units have been five times more involved, even though SORT was the frontline unit in armed confrontations with criminal elements,” Griffith said.

“Still another asked if we can expect the Prime Minister to dismantle the cabinet because of Marlene McDonald’s charges, and then went on to suggest that there is a heavy political price to pay for doing this given what happened when SAUTT was dismantled years ago,” Griffith wrote.

“They went on to say, ‘people who condemned when the previous administration dismantled SAUTT are now silent or even in support of this, which shows their hypocrisy’.”

FLASH BACK – Police Commissioner Gary Griffith on the beat with his officers during an exercise in Beetham Gardens back in February 2019. (Image: ABRAHAM DIAZ)

Griffith said he told the concerned person there were no convictions for SORT officers with regard to the Belcon and Morris’ deaths yet that was the reason given for dismantling SORT.

“Another referenced SRP Clint Huggins, who as part of the Dole Chadee gang, turned state’s evidence and confessed to being a part of murder. They also spoke about the TT Defence Force having three members who were charged and convicted for the kidnapping and murder of Balram ‘Balo’ Mahrajh, with one of officer being part of the Special Forces, thereby begging the question, if we should dismantle the SRP section of the TTPS, and various units of the TTDF, including the Special Forces Unit?”

The former Commissioner also said questions arose about the power McDonald Jacob’s appears to be wielding as DCP and interim head of the TTPS.

“That as an accounting officer and not an Acting CoP or CoP, he shouldn’t be making such sweeping changes, especially in light that we have a new Police Service Commission who theoretically could send a merit list to Parliament so that a new Commissioner of Police could be appointed in less than a week. Even when we had a substantive Commissioner or Acting Commissioner, never before did they make such changes as we are seeing Jacob is making now.”

He noted that those who contacted him offered reasons for the changes, saying, “Those who can’t build or develop, only know how to dismantle to make themselves look relevant. The unit that put fear into the hearts of criminals, pegged back gang warfare, stopped kidnappings by apprehending offenders, and who were instrumental in major drug busts, being dismantled is a victory for the 11 percent who don’t want you back at the helm, so the criminal underworld is laughing all the way to the bank. This is also a victory for those who don’t want you back because you pose a political threat.”

In the end, Griffith said he told the concerned people that he will reserve comment, because I know the ultimate judge is the citizens of our country.

He said as the fiasco rolls out, he promises the nation two things.

“One, I will listen to their voices for guidance and two, I will continue to be a conduit through which their voices can be heard,” Griffith said.

Over the weekend, news broke that the SORT was being dismantled.