Prime Minister Defends Police Policy

Dr Keith Rowley

Urges Citizens not to Engage the Police in Any Armed Confrontation

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has urged citizens not to engage the police in any armed confrontation reminding that “the law facilitates the return of equal force and fire”.

Earlier this week, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith said he would not concentrate his efforts to “any continuous debate” regarding the policy of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) that allows for police officers to use “deadly force” if they are fired upon.

“As I have stated previously, the members of the TTPS are well trained an equipped to undertake their role and function, and if they were to step out of the law to do such, they are also aware of the consequences,” Griffith said in a four page response to a statement issued by the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) regarding the “One Shot One Kill” policy.

In its statement, LATT’ commended Griffith in his fight against crime and said that while he was correct to state that police officers can use deadly force in self-defence situations, that should not be misconstrued into blanket authorisation for a shoot to kill policy.

LATT said that the force used by police officers must be proportional to the threat they are facing at the time.

“Shooting to death someone who points a gun at a police officer is easily defensible; shooting to kill in response to an attack with fists is more likely to be held to be excessive and not sanctioned by law,” LATT said, adding “the decision whether deadly force is justifiable in any given circumstance is likely to be made with little time to weigh the options and consequences of error, either way, being tragic”.

Speaking at the Office of the Prime Minister sponsored “Conversations with the Prime Minister” on Thursday night, Rowley disagreed with a member of the live audience that the police should instead target the arms or legs of a criminal.

He said the training for police officers does not include “target practice for hand and foot,” asking “is there anyone here who has ever had a gun pointed at you”.

He told the audience that “you may try to aim for his hand, which is not part of your training (and) it may cost you your life”.

He urged people not to acquire a firearm, ‘don’t shoot at the police, all of those things might save you”.

“All we are saying to those who are so inclined, don’t do that and then you won’t have to deal with Griffith”. – CMC