Jensen La Vende
A senior member of the Guard and Emergency Branch (GEB), an elite unit dedicated to crowd control and riot suppression on Friday said the kick to the back of the head of a man on Thursday was not right.
Speaking at a police media briefing at the Police Administration Building, Sackville Street, Port of Spain, ASP Avalon Frank said there is a use-of-force policy in place for such incidents.
“It is not right for you to kick someone to the back of the head. There are tactics in which we are trained in order to have a person subdued. But that incident, I would not want to comment on that at this stage.”
In a 19-second video shared on social media on Thursday, police officers assigned to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) are seen kicking, punching and choking two men who they alleged assaulted them. The incident took place at a party at the Queen’s Park Savannah on Thursday.
The incident is now the subject of two investigations by the Professional Standards Bureau (PSB) and the Police Complaints Authority (PCA).
The video showed officers using pepper spray on the men. One man was pepper-sprayed and then kicked in the leg as he rubbed his eyes. He was then body-slammed and kicked twice in the head while on the ground.
Acting Police Commissioner Mc Donald Jacob said he will not comment on the matter because it is currently engaging the attention of both the PCA and PSB.
In an 18 second video shared on social media on Friday the man who was kicked to the back of the head said the police were “wicked.”
“Yeah allyuh, they now leh go we (sic). They say we breaking and thiefing car up here on his district, they now leh go we. See? We now coming out allyuh. We now coming out the police station. They wicked, they wicked, they wicked.”
At the media briefing, Frank said the GEB was a highly trained unit in use of subduing tactics and crowd control. He boasted that GEB is one of the units called when all other units have failed in maintaining law and order.
“We are a loving unit. If you have a little Chihuahua in your premises and you have men coming in and saying, ‘You have a lil ole pot-hound’ but put three pitbulls inside of there and see.
“So I mean, in the police service, the GEB, we have our role and function and it’s a sort of, the criminal element must recognise that, ‘if we step out of bounds, these pitbulls will bite us.’
“And that is the message we want to send.”
He said there is a negative perception that GEB is the unit to “beat people and thing.”
He said that perception is changing by the mere fact that at the party there was a woman gyrating on a GEB officer. He said through social outreach programmes in schools and communities; the unit is working on changing that perception.
Newsday contacted former Police Commissioner Gary Griffith who said the actions of the officers were excessive and blamed the current leadership of the police for the incident.
“Each incident is different. What we saw was unfortunate and what is even more unacceptable is members of the public were condoning the actions of the officers.”
Griffith said his use-of-force policy seemed to have been dashed away when he left office. He added that citizens seem to be retaliating against police officers and that is not a good thing and he strongly encouraged citizens against it.
“This is no fault of the officers. Those at the top lack the tactical experience. The officers lack resources to do their jobs effectively. There was excessive force used.”
Griffith said there now seem to be two extremes with police allowing people to record and curse them without taking action and using too much force. This, he said, gives the perception that certain people are allowed to disrespect the police while others will be dealt with harshly.