Former police commissioner Gary Griffith says the police service must not be run like a State agency- where policies are discarded when the executive changes.
Griffith was responding to complaints from those with firearm users licenses (FUL) that they were being charged for carrying their FUL cards instead of their FUL booklets.
He told Guardian Media the FUL cards were implemented during his tenure as a means of convenience, as the booklets can be easily damaged, as a measure of accountability for firearms and ammunition and to prevent corruption in the issuing of licenses.
Previously, FUL holders carried the booklet as specified under the Firearms Act. On Monday, the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) issued a notice, informing FUL holders that they must carry their booklets as the FUL cards would not be accepted as a substitute.
But Griffith defended his implementation of the cards, saying their introduction was among the many changes he made within the service to utilise technology and prevent corruption.
“The FUL books are something you can buy at the Government printery, we were investigating of police officers getting access to these FUL books, forging my signature and then if it is the police stops someone in a roadblock, the person would just show the FUL book and they have an illegal firearm and they will let off. The FUL card would have prevented that because the card has a chip, the card would ensure that someone who has a legitimate issued firearm, it would be confirmed that person has an FUL and not something forged,” Griffith said.
He said the chip would also record whether the holder of the FUL was adhering to their responsibilty of visiting a shooting range at least once a year to practice.
“The Police Service should not operate like a State board, when the Government changes, you just scrap everything, whether it is good, bad or indifferent, the most important resource is the human resource and it is unfortunate,” Griffith said.
He mused about what would be the next policy to be dismantled, saying he had transformed the North ground of the St James Barracks from a derelict vehicle graveyard to a hockey field.
“Who knows? Maybe that would be the next thing they will get rid of, they might very well decide to roll 500 derelict vehicles back onto the astroturf because it seems all that is being done now is to try to destroy and dismantle every single thing that was done to make the turnaround in the police service and the public trust and confidence that caused us to move from 14 to 40 plus per cent,” Griffith said.
Guardian Media reached out to the TTPS for comment but none was forthcoming.
Meanwhile, some FUL users were confused about the turnaround in the policy.
One man, who will not be identified as he fears for his safety, said he was given an FUL card two years ago when Gary Griffith was the Police Commissioner.
“I had applied for a variation in my license, when you do that, you would usually had to put in your booklet with the Firearms Unit and lodge your firearm. With the card, you could put in the booklet and still keep your firearm because there was a way to confirm you have a license,” the man said.
His application for a variation was rejected and his booklet was given back to him several months ago but the man said many others still have their booklets lodged with the Firearms Division of the TTPS.
“All those people only have their cards because their booklets are in the firearms division and that division is closed. They are now terrified to go and lodge their firearm because they could get charged as they don’t have the booklet to show but if they don’t lodge it and they get stopped, they could get charged and their firearm seized,” he said.
The man said he knew of a situation where several hunters were stopped coming out of a forested area and their firearms were seized because they could only produce their FUL cards.