Top cop concerned
By DARCEL CHOY Thursday, July 17 2014
ACTING Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams yesterday said he was concerned about reports of soldiers engaging in patrols in Laventille and East Port-of-Spain without police involvement as per regulations. He is also concerned about allegations of brutality made by residents against the soldiers.
Residents have claimed since the shooting death of soldier Lance Cpl Kayode Thomas on June 29, soldiers have been patrolling the areas without a police presence and have been searching homes and attacking people.
At the weekly press briefing at Police Administration Building, Port-of-Spain, Williams said he raised his concerns with Chief of Defence Staff Major General Kenrick Maharaj who assured him that he (Maharaj) has not authorised soldiers to carry out any operations on their own.
“What has been happening over the last two weeks, I personally as head of the Police Service have concerns. I have brought these concerns to the Chief of Defence Staff and he has given me clear assurances that he has not authorised soldiers to carry out any operation on their own out there,” Williams said.
He added that Maharaj made it clear that there has been no change by way of his directions because soldiers generally operate in support of the Police Service via joint patrols. Williams said he was not in support of soldiers going out and carrying out operations on their own.
“That is not something that is endorsed by me or any part of my leadership team and it is a matter the Chief of Defence Staff also shared with me is not authorised by him,” he said.
Williams said there was nothing illegal about soldiers in a community however actions such as wearing masks and searching premises are unlawful.
Noting he is not in charge of the Defence Force, as the head of the Police Service he is obligated to bring to the attention of the Chief of Defence staff, issues involving soldiers that were out in the public domain.
He called on residents who have been affected by the actions of soldiers, to make reports to the police who will then investigate. “If any member of the society is adversely affected by the actions of members of the Defence Force where they are assaulted, they are to make reports to the police stations nearest to them and we will investigate and just as how we prosecute officers for criminal offences, if a criminal offence is committed by a member of the Defense Force, we will prosecute them in a similar way, within the ambit of the law,” Williams said.