PORT OF SPAIN — The 300-plus Special Reserve Police Officers hired by the police service to ensure public safety during the Christmas season will not be armed.
This was announced by acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams during his daily news briefing earlier this week. Williams said the SRPs did not receive any firearm training but “are being deployed.”
Concerns have been raised over the decision and sources say many senior officers have so far refused to deploy the SRPs stating the officers will be unarmed. Williams said the SRPs will be in company of his officers who are armed and that members of the public will be safe during the festive season.
His disclosure that the officers will not be armed is not being taken kindly by president of the Police Social and Welfare Association Sgt Anand Ramesar. Ramesar in a brief interview yesterday said his association is aware of the situation and wishes to express its immediate concern “for the safety of these officers in such a situation, given the prevalence of crime at Christmas time”.
Ramesar said the fact that in recent times many officers have lost their lives while on duty, the decision for the SRPs not to receive firearm training is an “unhealthy” one.
“We as an association will not sacrifice the safety of any police officer and it is clear to us that there is a betrayal of this responsibility by the relevant stakeholders who have gone ahead to deploy these officers to perform duties as police officers,” Ramesar said.
He said the association is calling on Williams to address the situation immediately since at no time were they (association) ever consulted on the issue of there being no firearms training. The association head said apart from not being consulted on this issue, the association “will never agree to such a situation and distances itself from any decision” which will see its officers being placed on duty without the proper requisite training.
Last Thursday, National Security Minister Jack Warner announced that 359 SRPs will be on foot patrol by Christmas. Warner, in a news release said the first batch will comprise 159 officers and the others will complete their training in time for Christmas. During a recruitment drive which continued over a month, more than 40,000 persons applied to become SRPs. (Guardian)