ACTING Commissioner of Police, Stephen Williams said yesterday he was not aware of any reports of brutality by soldiers but he could only investigate and prosecute the matters if those affected actually reported these incidents to the police.
He was speaking at the Police Service’s weekly press conference at Police Headquarters, Port of Spain.
He said when allegations of soldier brutality were first brought to his attention and he even heard about reporters being threatened by soldiers, he had brought it to the attention of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) , Major General Kenrick Maharaj.
Williams added however that so far he was “satisfied with his (CDS Maharaj) response to these issues up to now and he has shared with me that the allegations are not true.”
Admitting that he had been away for ten days and when he came back he was greeted with more reports of soldier brutality, he said the military’s role in terms of policing, “is about generally supporting the police”.
He explained that the already established Inter Agency Task Force (IATF) which had been around since 2003 was created to deal with crime specifically in “at risk,” communities. He said at the beginning of 2014 there was more military involvement in terms of police when the country recorded 19 murders in 17 days.
He added however, “but under no circumstances are soldiers to operate on their own and I have been given the assurance from the CDS that soldiers are not operating on their own so I wanted to bring that bit of clarity to this matter and my status about this matter”.
Williams was asked what can be done by him in light of the reports by residents of East Port of Spain and he replied, ‘listen if you are an individual that has been affected, make a report and we will prosecute and even members of the media who have been affected we will investigate, but I am not in charge of the Defence Force but as a police I am under the obligation to bring it to the attention of the CDS.”
He added that he does not have the authority to tell soldiers where to go but what is illegal is the action but “I cannot do anything if there is no report.”
He added, “how come people are not fearful to make reports against the police because people report police officers, so when people make allegations they should support the allegations and that’s why a report is made so that there is recorded statements.”