JUNIOR COPS UNDER PROBE
By Nalinee Seelal Sunday, August 25 2013
Two junior officers assigned to an elite unit within the Port-of-Spain division have been identified as being central to a probe into allegations that police officers have been leaking information to gang leaders and gang members in crime hot spots in East Port-of-Spain, Laventille and Beetham Gardens on the planning and timing of raids and road blocks
The two officers were on Friday transferred out of the unit, one sent to the Western Division and the other to the Northern Division, pending the outcome of a probe.
The probe comes on the heels of a massive police exercise last Sunday which resulted in the detention of 90 persons, but which saw no arms or ammunition being found, nor any large quantity of drugs. On Wednesday last, Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of crime, Glen Hackett, revealed that the Police Service was investigating information relating to officers reportedly leaking information to criminal elements, such as the time when raids and searches were to be done and where they were to be carried out
Contacted for comment on the probe, Deputy Police Commissioner Mervyn Richardson told Sunday Newsday, based on information made available to the police, he has appointed Superintendent Kenrick Edwards, head of the Criminal Intelligence Gang Unit to probe the allegations of officers leaking information to criminal elements.
“I cannot give an update on what has transpired thus far with respect to the probe, but what I can say is that we are trying to get to the bottom of this and ensure that if any police officers are involved in such activities they will not be spared,” he said.
Sunday Newsday understands that officers investigation have been able to secure sensitive data such as telephone conversations in which gang leaders communicated with members and so unearth information on the two officers tipping off gang leaders about the police raids and road blocks. It is understood that the Police Service’s legal team has been discussing whether charges of misconduct in public office and tipping off criminal element could lead to criminal charges being laid against the two officers who are said to be currently under surveillance.
The Director of Public Prosecutions will be engaged to decide what criminal charges can be laid against the two police officers, sources said.
Police officers believe that the leaking of sensitive information on anti-crime plans to the gang leaders by these two particular officers have hindered attempts to deal effectively with crime and the seizure of guns, ammunition and drugs. As such, new strategy elements have been implemented, one of which is the use of officers from other police divisions to carry out raids in the hot spot areas of East Port-of-Spain, Laventille, Beetham and some areas of Belmont.
Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams told Newsday at a function in Beetham last week that rogue police officers will not be supported by fellow officers, the Police Service’s Executive nor the Police Association. He said however, officials will have to follow the law in dealing with corrupt officers.
“A rogue police officer who commits crime is a far greater danger to a police officer than the criminal element outside there. So we will be doing everything possible to get rid of rogue police officers,” Williams said.
In an interview, Secretary of the Police Social and Welfare Association Sgt Michael Seales confirmed that information coming to the Association indicated that a probe was underway into allegations that officers have leaked information to criminal elements.
Seales said the Association has a deep appreciation and understanding of the fact that within any organisation there would be persons who slip through the cracks and were bent on wrongdoing.
“The Association’s view is that from a law-enforcement perspective, this is a disastrous situation. It not only compromises the confidence in law enforcement, but it puts the law enforcers at risk of loss of limb and life because you have one of your very own practically putting you in harm’s way against the known enemies.
“The Association, in the sum total of its experience, would have seen things happen and would have written to the Commissioner of Police and would have had several dialogues and would have pointed to areas in the regulation where officers who are involved in wrongdoing are not disciplined and their conduct does not fall within the context of discipline but amounts to serious criminal behaviour.
“The Commissioner was advised that the Police Service needs to bite the bullet and summarily dismiss officers who are engaged in such action,” he said.
Seales said the Association has also suggested the Commissioner of Police set up a mechanism for whistle-blowing and to ensure that it was confidential so as to protect the informants and target the delinquent law enforcement officers.