Following a public spat over the T&T Police Service’s failure to charge anyone involved in a poolside party at the Bayside Towers for breach of COVID-19 health protocols last week, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Police Commissioner Gary Griffith met at the Diplomatic Centre in Port-of-Spain yesterday and ironed out their issues.
And following the meeting, Griffith said the disagreement was now behind them and is now resolving to ensure the TTPS gets the public to fully comply with the regulations to ensure the country is protected from the spread of the virus.
“That is water under the bridge. The Prime Minister has an important role to play because he is governing the nation. I obviously have a role to play to ensure laws are enforced, and the police will not breach our authority,” Griffith told Guardian Media hours after the meeting with Rowley yesterday.
The meeting came after Rowley had questioned the police’s response to the pool party at Bayside Towers in Cocorite, where no one was charged although there was a clear breach of the public health ordinance for social gatherings. This drew criticism from the public and once again raised the issue of whether one law was being applied to the rich and another for the poor, since people had been arrested and charged at other public events where there were breaches of the social gathering law.
However, Griffith responded to the PM’s comments, accusing him of being hypocritical for criticising the police since they were unable to act because the law was vague as it related to activities on private properties.
But after their conversation, Griffith said the meeting was a very productive one, adding he now understands the Prime Minister’s concerns about the behaviour of some citizens. He said the police will continue to enforce laws and encourage those in private spaces to be responsible.
However, Griffith repeated that police do not have the authority in a private place to prevent people from assembling in groups of more than five, or to enforce face mask use.
“As it pertains to private places, as the Prime Minister rightly stated, persons were being irresponsible, but as police, we cannot police or arrest people for stupidity. It puts us in a very difficult situation to lockdown the country to prevent the virus from spreading by making sure persons adhere to the restrictions,” Griffith said.
However, he denied asking for anything from the Government, saying that the TTPS will use all it can use under the existing laws.
“I’m seeing if I can assist the Prime Minister’s policy and directions to try and get persons to be more mature,” Griffith said.
Earlier in the day, the Office of the Prime Minister released a statement via Facebook noting that Griffith and other senior officers had been summoned to a meeting which started at 10 am.
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, National Security Minister Stuart Young and acting Deputy Commissioners of Police Jayson Forde and McDonald Jacob also attended yesterday’s meeting.
However, in a subsequent release, the TTPS took issue with the use of the term “summoned,” saying Griffith was invited.
“It is unfortunate that the Communications Unit of the Office of the Prime Minister does not understand the difference between ‘invited’ and ‘summoned’,” the release stated.
The release added that the meeting was very cordial, saying that the emphasis will now be on all parties moving forward to ensure that the Public Health Ordinance regulations are adhered to by members of the public.
The Prime Minister did not comment publicly on the meeting.