JSC members say Erla Christopher’s absence from security meeting very disappointing

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JSC members say Erla Christopher’s absence from security meeting very disappointing

The Joint Select Committee on National Security was left very disappointed yesterday, after Commissioner-designate Erla Harewood-Christopher failed to show for her first meeting as top cop with them.

JSC members on both sides expressed their disappointment in her absence, with answers being sought from those who filled in for her during the inquiry into the anti-crime strategies implemented by the TTPS to address criminal activity in Trinidad and Tobago.

JSC chairman Keith Scotland, said: “The committee wanted to hear from the Commissioner-designate, the committee had set its work set out on that pathway, having sent out the invitation and the committee wants to convey the critical significance of the Commissioner of Police-designate attending before us on the next occasion. We cannot underestimate or understate the crucial attendance of that personal attendance, not just for the committee but the country at large.”

Harewood-Christopher did send word explaining her absence.

“We received a correspondence yesterday afternoon, after receiving an initial confirmation that issues that are urgent and critical to national security required the Commissioner-designate’s urgent attention and she was unable to attend this afternoon,” he said.

Committee member Jayanti Lutchmedial said with the spate of violent crimes and murders, members were prepared to put pointed questions to Harewood-Christopher and her absence was disappointing.

“The Commissioner-designate has been acting as the Commissioner for some time, has been a member of the TTPS executive for some time and therefore must be aware of the importance of these committee meetings and these committees. It is the mechanism through which the people’s representatives in the Parliament really get an opportunity to interrogate state functionaries and at a time when we have record-breaking murder rate last year, we have a record-breaking murder rate in January and what prompted our request for a meeting today is a series of reports of TTPS paraphernalia or imitation paraphernalia, as well as other arms of law enforcement-marked ammunition, being found on crime scenes.”

On the issue of the TTPS paraphernalia Acting DCP (Investigations and Intelligence) Curt Simmons, who led the TTPS’ executive during the session, said steps, including possible legislative changes, were being taken to address the matter.

Simmons said: “Internally, we have instructed that only our Task Forces throughout the nation are allowed to use certain types of kit and that is the blue one. The charge room personnel will revert to the blue and grey as we know it. The balaclava, that mask which came out during the COVID-19, a number of officers were holding on to it. We have instructed that that be removed when persons are dealing directly with the public.”

“We have looked at our legislation, which actually speaks against it, and I think other agencies, mostly security companies, would have been allowed to use items that resemble police kits and we are planning a meeting to address that issue.”