MANY of the rank and file of the Police Service and Defence Force are not in support of the legislation to give soldiers police powers, said People's National Movement (PNM) Laventille East/Morvant MP Donna Cox.
She was contributing to the debate Wednesday on The Defence (Amend-ment) Bill at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.
National Security Minister Jack Warner, in his previous contribution, had assured with the new bill, which sought to give soldiers police powers, that soldiers would not go out on operations on their own. Cox said she was "reliably informed" that currently soldiers were out on crime operations with police officers acting as "taxi drivers".
She reported that as she was speaking, the Police Social and Welfare Association was having a meeting to discuss their concerns about the bill. She also read from a petition and letter from former association president Emrol Bruce to current association president Sgt Anand Ramesar, dated March 7, 2013.
The letter stated that the signatories to the petition described the initiative as a "serious catastrophic decision which will emasculate and further demotivate police officers". Cox continued reading: "It could also initiate an irreversible trend of interference in the independence of the Police Service and its operations."
She questioned who the Government consulted with in the Police Service and Defence Force and described it as an attempt to demoralise the police officers. She also questioned what was the real intent of the Bill and whether it was to get soldiers to do the will of the Government if the police did not want to.
Cox noted that Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, in his contribution, reported that both acting Commission-er of Police Stephen Williams and Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier General Kenrick Maharaj, were in support of the move. She said by now they should know that the officers under them are not in support.
She also said that the initiative would destroy people's confidence in the Defence Force.