Soldiers who act on patrols without support from police officers are doing so unlawfully and could potentially face prosecution.
Secretary for the Police Social and Welfare Association Michael Seales yesterday supported statements made on Wednesday by acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams at a news briefing at the association’s headquarters at Besson Street, Port of Spain.
“The acting Commissioner would have made it abundantly clear recently that it is illegal for soldiers to go out there on their own to perform duties of policemen, especially on the basis of an investigative role in the absence of police officers. No soldier should stop, interrogate and search any citizen of this country in relation to any crime perpetrated, without the support of officers from the T&T Police Service. “The association wants to make the distinction, we cannot stop the soldiers from going into any area, but what we want is to remind them of their functions. Because if they search a person in the absence of a police officer, that is a breach of the law, and if someone wants to take it further, can occasion an assault against that person which can lead to charges being levied against these soldiers,” Seales said.
He emphasised that he was not against the presence of soldiers in a community, however, he wanted their actions to be lawful.
Police said yesterday they had no new “reports” of citizens in this country claiming that they had been assaulted by the members of the T&T Defence Force.
The latest allegation of “soldier brutality” came on Tuesday from 35-year-old Leon King, who claimed that he was unfairly attacked by two soldiers, one who was wearing a mask. This attack, King alleged, resulted in him getting a broken jaw and a possibly dislocated vertebrae.
Speaking to Express yesterday, King’s girlfriend Kisha confirmed that the 35-year-old father of two was still “in a lot of pain” but she was hoping that he would be released from the hospital by the end of the week.
“He’s doing slightly better. He’s still in a lot of pain, but the swelling by the eye is going down and his bruises are becoming lighter. Today the doctors did the CT scan to make sure everything was OK and they are looking forward to wiring up his jaw tomorrow (Friday). They said once that done he will be released and could go home. So we are looking forward to that,” Kisha said.
She said King had yet to go to the Besson Street Police Station to make a report, but he will be doing so as soon as he is released.
Patrols by soldiers in east Port of Spain and Laventille began on June 29 following the murder of Lance Corporal Kayode Thomas.
Several residents have made claims that they were abused by soldiers. These claims are being investigated by the Defence Force.