Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said he supports the T&T Police Service (TTPS) one shot, one kill policy. Responding to a question on the issue during Thursday night's Conversations with the Prime Minister at the Exodus Pan Yard in Tunapuna, he said that is what police officers are trained to do when confronted by armed criminals.
Rowley said thousands of citizens who have had the experience of an illicit firearm directed at them with ill will are still grieving from the effects of such weapons. He warned gun-toting criminals that if they shoot at the police, they will have to deal with Police Commissioner Gary Griffith.
Rowley gave his views on the issue during his Conversations with the Prime Minister at the Exodus Panyard, St Augustine, on Thursday.
The issue of officers killing criminals was raised by a woman who identified herself as Marlene. She felt such criminals should be not be killed by officers but put behind bars. Her comment drew expressions of disagreement from the audience.
One shot, one kill has generated intense debate in recent weeks, with local lobby group Fixin' T&T and the T&T Law Association expressing concern about the police.
Rowley said Griffith has made it abundantly clear that if a citizen acquires an illegal firearm and shoots at a police officer "under the Trinidad and Tobago laws the police has been trained to return fire. That is the law."
Commenting on the suggestion that police officers should aim to shoot criminals on their "hand and foot," Rowley pointed out that "there is no target practice at the police range for hand and foot."
"If you are looking at a firearm pointing in your direction, held by a person not telling you hello, that fraction of a second that you hesitate to respond to a person who acquires a firearm, points it at you, and even discharges it in your direction . . . that fraction of a second, you may aim for his hand which is not part of the training that may cost you your life," he said.
His response was met with loud cheers, whistles and clapping from the audience.
Rowley said Parliament has given the country's 7000 police officers and other authorised officers the right to respond "in that situation," referring to the policy.
"Don't acquire an unlicensed firearm, worst, don't engage in practices where you have to confront the police with your unlicensed firearm, worst, don't shoot at the police. Let us not make any bones about it," he said
The Prime Minister said, "thousands of families are still this minutes grieving from the effects of illicit firearms" used on them.
"All we are saying to those who are so inclined, don't do it and then you would not have to deal with Griffith," he said.