Gary gets rock-star treatment in San Fernando

HOURS after he led the successful extrication of kidnapped UWI employee Maria Dass-Supersad, Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith was treated to “superstar” status as he toured the bustling streets of San Fernando on Thursday afternoon.

He was given a welcome befitting a celebrity, with reporters, photographers and videographers in tow, recording his every move. Shoppers and others going about their business stopped what they were doing to shake his hand and congratulate him for the dent he is making in crime. Some grabbed their cellphones to capture the moment, while others smiled shyly as he passed them, others giving him a thumbs-up.

On High Street, an elderly woman rushed to shake his hand, telling him of the daily prayer and fast her group had undertaken for the police to clean up the country. “We meeting in prayer every day, we praying and fasting for you, so go ahead and do your job.”

“Thank you,” Griffith said as a young woman with a baby seized the opportunity to shake the hand of the superstar and he tousled the baby’s hair.

A man standing at Library Corner started applauding, as Griffith, accompanied by San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello and a complement of khaki-clad officers, and told him to keep up the good work. “Nice job last night,” he said in reference to the successful release of Dass-Supersad, unharmed and without any ransom being paid. Griffith smiled in acknowledgement.

As he walked on Harris Promenade after visiting the burnt-out shell of the San Fernando Police Station and viewed the unsightly Magistrates’ Court building, which is still covered with yellow tarpaulin after almost two years, Griffith was greeted by a group of blushing St Gabriel’s RC primary Standard Five students. The top cop stopped to shake every tiny hand, including that of a little girl who was too shy to come forward. The girls said they were excited to meet him, giving among their reasons, “Because he is famous, he is a very important person, for just being excellent,” and “because he ensures the police help to keep us safe.”

Griffith smiled at the compliments as he complied for a photo-op, standing with Regrello among the smiling girls in their green-and-white uniforms.

Taxi drivers and others wound down their windows in the blistering afternoon heat to commend the “commish.” “Well done,” they said. “Keep up the good work.” “You is ah boss.”

One man, however, tongue in cheek, warned Griffith as he walked through the city, “Captain, be careful how you walking in Sando, because the streets full of potholes,” he said. In return the mayor shook his finger at him, while addressing him as “my friend.” Homeless people and other pedestrians, including a Rastaman, hailed out the “king” as he walked by, with a satisfied smile on his face. One man commented, “The safest street in San Fernando right now is High Street.”

Griffith also ducked into RT Jewellers, which was the scene of a robbery earlier this year, in which a security guard was injured, to talk to the owner. Whatever the discussion, on leaving, Griffith assured the owner that Snr Supt Zamsheed Mohammed would treat with him.

He also walked through RM Plaza, eliciting the comment from a shopper, “First time I see so much police in this mall.”

Before his walk, Griffith and his officers including ACP Jayson Forde, Mohammed and Snr Supt Youseff Gaffar, went to the City Auditorium for a meeting facilitated by Regrello, to address stakeholders, including taxi drivers, vendors, business owners and others. Questions were not asked, but instead solutions offered by president of the Greater San Fernando Chamber Kiran Singh and businessman Derek Smith, who owns a security firm.

Griffith spoke of plans to establish a divisional command centre in the south and the introduction of the Emergency Response Patrol, outfitted with GPS. He said he was pleasantly surprised that at this meeting, instead of stakeholders asking for firearm users’ licences and what the police could do for them, San Fernandians were offering to help with vehicle maintenance and plans to make the coast and the city safe.