Head of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA), Gillian Lucky, said yesterday that police cannot abuse their power and use excessive and arbitrary force against citizens during a state of emergency.
She added that the PCA will be more vigilant during this time and she further advised that all complaints with respect to police abuse or corruption can be made to the PCA.
Aggrieved persons can visit the PCA office located at 46 Abercromby Street, Port of Spain, call the hotline at 800-2PCA (2732) or write officially to the PCA.
"The Police Complaints Authority is an independent body mandated in statute to deal with criminal offences, including abusive police officers, police corruption and also serious police misconduct," Lucky told the Express in a telephone interview yesterday.
She noted that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has spoken of the importance of the PCA and its role in investigating complaints.
According to Lucky, the Prime Minister had said "all complaints of abuse will be thoroughly and properly investigated and any officer found guilty will feel the full brunt of the law. The Police Complaints Authority has a vital role to play in this regard and has been very vocal about its jurisdiction in recent time".
Since the state of emergency was declared on August 21, Lucky said one official complaint was made to the PCA.
She said 13 other matters were picked up by the PCA through the print and electronic media which will be investigated.
"We have to be more vigilant because persons may be more intimidated into making complaints. People need to remember that they continue to have rights in a state of emergency," said Lucky.
"My concern is that the people of this country are unfortunately unaware that the state of emergency does not give the police a licence to use their power arbitrarily. Any complaints there are concerning excessive and arbitrary force by the police can be made to the PCA," she added.
She said the PCA has been very vocal about its jurisdiction and is prepared and able to deal with all complaints that are within its remit that are committed by police officers during this state of emergency.
Questioned as to the impact on the backlog of complaints that already exist at the PCA, Lucky said, "The good news is that there has been an increase of staff at the PCA and therefore the PCA continues to investigate the matters that are currently before us and those that have been made in the past."
She continued: "The public is assured that investigations into complaints made prior to the state of emergency are being actively evaluated, processed, monitored and pursued."
Lucky said she and a team from the PCA will also be visiting the affected families of the three persons who were killed by police in Moruga.
In July this year there were heated protests in Moruga over the killings of Keron Fernando Eccles, Abigail Johnson and Allana Duncan.
During the state of emergency persons also have access to a special tribunal which has the power to review the case of any person if he or she so requests, who is under preventative detention during the period of public emergency, upon request.
Chief Justice Ivor Archie appointed Gilbert Peterson, SC, as chairman, and Deborah Peake, SC and Rajmanlal Joseph to serve as members of the Review Tribunal established under the provisions of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago and the Regulations governing the current State of Emergency.
Over the weekend, Government with its majority passed a motion to extend the state of emergency for an additional three months.