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Residents protest ‘police brutality’

Road blocked, tyres burnt after shooting in Laventille

By Jensen LaVende jensen.lavende@trinidadexpress.com

RESIDENTS of Desperlie Crescent, Laventille are calling on Deputy Commissioner of Police Mervyn Richardson to investigate what they are claiming is a clear case of police brutality.

The residents, who burnt tyres and blocked off part of the road yesterday afternoon, said their actions could worsen if nothing is done about the perceived disrespect by the lawmen.

 The residents say that the officers were disrespectful towards them and when they (the police) were told about it the police became hostile.

The protest stemmed from the shooting of Brent Baptiste and alleged police brutality against Dillon Skeete and Camille Lee.

Lee reported that a police officer identified as Quincy shot Baptiste in the foot after he (Baptiste) questioned him about his rough treatment of those in the area.

 Lee said she was beaten and did not know “how I end up on the ground” after enquiring about her boyfriend, who was allegedly beaten by police a few moments prior to her alleged beating.

“I just feel cuff and kick. I want justice, they need to go back in the barracks for training because they don’t know how to deal with people,” Lee lamented.

The lawmen’s story is not very different from the residents. They claim that around 12.30 p.m. a party of officers from the Port of Spain Division Task Force was in the area when they saw a man they knew to be involved in criminal activity.

The officers attempted to search the man who resisted and a struggle ensued. During the struggle the officers claim that the man they spotted, who turned out to be Baptiste, tried to grab a policeman’s gun. The officer managed to wrestle away the gun and in the process shot Baptiste in the left foot. 

Resident Wendell Scott said that the police dealt with the situation in an ad hoc manner. He said several police officers visited the scene after the incident, but when there are other concerns in the area that should be addressed by the cops, they “taking long, long to come”.

The whole fracas, the residents said, started when police attempted to search a recently-opened Community-based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP) office. The residents say after the police were not greeted with open arms they got agitated and began picking on residents.

One resident, who refused to be identified, called on Richardson to “take charge of this today”. 

“This thing have to stop up here...police just coming and advantaging people,” the man said, adding that the officers are the ones who are causing the crime in the area with their ill-treatment of residents.  

“The Government just give the youths a little work to behave themselves and keep calm. The police take a man, shoot him in the foot, take a woman, beat she up, slap she up.

 “We calling Mervyn Richardson, if this don’t stop now it would get serious up here, people living as one and police coming and making crime. They are making trouble. The people not settling for this no more! They fed up, they fed up, they fed up!” said the visibly upset resident.

In response, Richardson said: “Of course I would get involved. I must launch an investigation into whatever is the cause of this.” 

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