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Editorial

A shocking statistic emerged yesterday of an 86 per cent increase in police killings for the first six months of 2020 compared to the same period last year and a 60 per cent increase in police-related killings between 2018 and 2019.

That three-year rise in police-related killings has been a source of concern for the Director of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) David West, who told Guardian Media “there is a standing policy since I assumed directorship of the PCA that an investigation is initiated into every police-involved shooting fatal and non-fatal.

“To date, there have been 32 incidents of police-involved shootings. Out of those 32 incidents, there have been 43 victims,” he said.

Yesterday, there were fiery protests in Second Caledonia, Morvant, over an alleged police shooting that resulted in three people being killed allegedly at the hands of officers of the Inter-Agency Task Force and the Guard and Emergency Branch.

T&T is a country that espouses the rule of law, where justice is not administered by the barrel of a gun but by a legal process. While many citizens rally around the police for engaging in shoot-outs with those they deem “pests” but which invariably leave the so-called “bad-boys” dead, we cannot as a society believe it is okay for the police to engage in wild west behaviour. One never knows when someone we love could be in the wrong place at the wrong time and be looking down the barrel of a police gun. We already have the dastardly criminal element to deal with. We should not now have to live in fear of the police or extra-judicial killings.

We make no judgment on the killings in Morvant over the weekend, even though the video in that shooting raises some serious questions about what happened. We leave it for the PCA and the Professional Standards Bureau to determine if the police acted appropriately.

On June 4 at a police press briefing, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith said his officers are not like the officers in the George Floyd killing.

“We are not shooting back at anyone because of their colour; we are shooting back at them because they are criminals trying to kill police officers,” he said.

His officers, according to Griffith, are “the good ones, we are the ones that are trying, and if it is that we confront people who have killed 538 black lives that matter last year, we are the heroes.”

According to Griffith, “all lives matter.” None of us should be happy when there are questions surrounding the killing of anyone. Guardian Media can confirm that there are 180 body-cams for a police service of 10,000 men and women. Were the officers involved in Saturday’s incident wearing body-cams? We don’t know. Did the vehicles they were driving have dashboard cameras? It appears they did but because the vehicles were parked in the opposite direction in which the shootings took place the camera footage would be useless.

We hope the investigation into the shootings is done swiftly and if there was wrongdoing on the part of any of those ten or 15 heavily armed officers they would be dealt with.

Don’t get us wrong, we all want an end to the killing fields of T&T, but the last time we checked there are still laws that protect all citizens.

Commissioner Griffith and his officers would agree that the fatal shootings of multiple people must be proven to be justified.