Sunday, February 25, 2018

PCA to probe 'Flying Squad'

The Police Complaints Authority (PCA) is investigating reports of the existence of a New Flying Squad Investigations Unit (NFSIU), the authority said in a statement yesterday.

The release said Director of the Police Complaints Authority Gillian Lucky will be meeting independently with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard SC and the acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams "as the PCA undertakes enquiries to determine these matters".

The release pointed out, however, that before the PCA gets involved in any investigation with respect to the NFSIU, it must first determine if there are police officers in the NFSIU, the scope of work of the NFSIU and to whom the NFSIU reports.

It said in this regard the director would be meeting separately with the DPP and the CoP.

"The PCA is very mindful of its role in oversight of law enforcement. Even if there are no police officers attached to the NFSIU, there must be accountability and transparency at all times with respect to this unit," the PCA stated.

The release comes amidst controversy over allegations about the existence of a NFSIU.

Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley on Tuesday called on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to clear the air on claims by retired police inspector Mervyn Cordner that the squad was revamped under his leadership, following approaches by National Security Minister Jack Warner for him to lead the unit. Rowley also called on the PCA and the Police Service Commission to conduct independent investigations about the claims being made.

The Police Service Commission will be raising the issue of whether there is a NFSIU in operation with acting Commissioner Williams at a meeting at 10 a.m. today.

Sources on the PSC said the matter would be examined "properly and carefully".

Sources had told the Express that the PSC was concerned about this issue, which was a matter of "serious public interest".

Shortly after his appointment as National Security Minister in early June 2012, Warner talked about cracking down on crime and the return of the country to a level of normalcy, even if it meant bringing back the Flying Squad and other measures which he felt had worked in the past.

He promised the "dawn of a new era" and berated the 21st century police initiative identified with then Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs.

Immediately following Warner's announcement, Cordner welcomed the proposal and offered to meet with Warner.

Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar was questioned by the media about the proposal to bring back the Flying Squad and she said she was leaving it up to Warner to decide.

"It is a proposal he has put out...I am sure he will meet with his heads of divisions of his ministry, and they will consider it before any final decision is made," she said in late June 2012.

Cordner, who has been insisting that the NFSIU had been operating since July last year, is claiming $24 million from the ministry for expenses and salaries and has promised to take Warner to court.

Warner, for his part, has denied the existence of the Squad.

In November 2008, Cordner had gathered a number of former members of the Squad in the hope of reviving the unit and of offering their services to then Commissioner James Philbert and Minister Martin Joseph.

Proposals were sent to Philbert, but nothing came of it.