(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — Fifteen of 16 police officers attached to a station in the Southwestern peninsula who recently refused to take a voluntary polygraph test have all been transferred.
The transfers were made by Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, who confirmed the action yesterday, saying he intends to clean up the T&T Police Service.
Griffith said any officer who refuses to take the test was either covering up for their fellow officers or turning a blind eye to illegal activity and criminal elements.
However, admitting it was not mandatory for an officer to be polygraphed, he said, “What I find very alarming is that many of the police officers are willing to polygraphed or be asked any question at any level to get into the office. But when you get into the service they suddenly have rights and don’t want to be polygraphed,” Griffith said in a telephone interview.
Explaining the reasoning behind his recent move, Griffith said because of the sensitivity of specific units and their locations officers must be polygraphed to be part of them. He said some of the units fall under Special Branch and the Special Operations Response Team involved in special operations.
He said for years the public has accused the police service of being involved in the illegal entry of weapons, drugs and human trafficking in the southwestern coastal areas of Icacos, Erin and Cedros. As such, he came up with a simple way to deal with the issue, where he asked officers to voluntarily be polygraphed on questions.
The questions asked the officers if they receive money for the illegal entry of weapons and drugs into the country, if they are aware of those involved in the illegal entry of drugs and guns and if they have been operating as police officers to prevent crime from happening.
“It was amazing to know that a whole police station, 15 of them, they all refused to be polygraphed on a simple straightforward matter. From captain to cook,” he said, adding the station has 16 officers and this would raise eyebrows.
The 15 officers ranked from WPC and PC to inspector and sergeant.
Griffith, however, refused to pinpoint the station, saying based on the fact that the officers refused to be polygraphed, they would not remain in those stations.
“They would be reassigned to other locations. I am the Commissioner of Police. I decide where officers are posted anyway, anytime and anywhere,” Griffith said.
“It is my call. I want persons who I could put my head on a block on…to know that they are not compromising the security of this country and affecting their fellow officers. They have to be trustworthy.”
The officers were given fourteen days to transfer.
Despite this, Griffith said the testing was not to find anyone guilty.
“It may very well mean that several of them are aware of what is happening and they are not operating in the proper manner becoming of a police officer, because of either trying to cover their fellow officers or turning a blind eye,” he said.
In light of this development, Griffith said, “I have heard that some of them intend to take legal action. I look forward to anyone taking me to court and challenging this. I have court clothes.”
He said he intended to adopt the same approach for officers in the North Eastern areas such as Maracas Bay and Las Cuevas, adding he will find a way “to clean up the police service.”
Griffith said he was willing to take the same polygraph test the officers received when it the process is fully implemented, although he could not give a timeframe for this.
“My job is to open the Pandora’s box and clean up whatever problems they have. For years we have heard about police compromising their positions.”
Contacted on the issue yesterday, T&T Police Service Social and Welfare Association secretary, Insp Anand Ramesar, said the transfers of 40 officers from the coastal areas to inland stations at Point Fortin, Santa Flora, Siparia, Fyzabad and Oropouche had come to their attention. He confirmed the transfers came as a result of their refusal to agree to take voluntary lie detector tests.
Ramesar said he was not sure who enquired from the officers whether they should volunteer for the tests, noting the association executive was “not consulted” on the matter.
“We are in the process of enquiring as to who approved this process and whether or not it has the authority of the CoP. It does raise some issues in terms of process, it does raise some issues by officers in terms of whether or not they were fairly dealt with?”
He said, however, that it was difficult to say if the transfers were based on victimisation since transfers are a normal process. Ramesar has since asked the officers to put their complaints in writing, following which they will meet with Griffith.