Commissioner Griffith promises the GBVU will provide a degree of sensitivity, confidentiality and trust.

The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) launched a new unit tasked with handling cases of gender-based violence and domestic violence in this country.

The newly formed Gender-Based Violence Unit (GBVU) will focus heavily on domestic violence cases and breaches of restraining orders. In addition to victims making reports to the Unit, members of the public with information on domestic abuse also can bring that information to the police, so they can act on it.

At today’s launch, Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith apologised on behalf of the Police Service for not doing enough to deal with domestic violence in this country.

The Commissioner said the TTPS has made mistakes in the past, particularly the one of not developing the GBVU a long time ago.

“With the establishment of this Unit, there is now going to be a system of better leadership, better management,” he promises. “We are going to measure performance, and we are going to hold persons accountable.”

He adds: “I get a number of reports from women who would state that they were not treated as good as they should have been when they go to the police stations. There was one I got just today. She went to a police station, and was spoken to by three officers. They took her statement and then one said: ‘All yuh together so long. All yuh try and work it out’. And this is after this woman was badly beaten.”

Commissioner Griffith admits he cannot assure the public that all 7,000 police officers will treat with gender-based violence appropriately, but he promised the GBVU will provide a degree of sensitivity, confidentiality and trust.

“That is why, unfortunately, many women and men have been badly affected when they go to the police stations. At times you would hear reports that the police officer will chase them out of the station because they are improperly dressed. Or that we have not been able to enforce restraining orders. How we speak to and how we approach individuals,” the Commissioner states. “And even when we deal with same-sex relationships, where individuals feel intimidated and afraid; they do not think they will be taken seriously. The importance of this Gender-Based Violence Unit is to deal with all of these matters.”

Only a week ago the International Women’s Resource Network (IWRN) called for a National Registry on Domestic and Gender-Based Violence, something Commissioner Griffith says would help police officers.