In 2020 the T&T Police Service (TTPS) will create a centre with the capacity to monitor and analyse social media activity via the use of surveillance systems, and the TTPS will also get the Armoured Personnel Carriers which Police Commissioner Gary Griffith had advocated since he was the National Security Minister under the People’s Partnership regime.
This and other information on TTPS’ plans for 2020 are contained in the 2020 Public Sector Investment plan (PSIP) and Development Programme.
These reports were part of 2020 Budget documents laid in Parliament on Monday.
The TTPS received approximately $2.6B in the 2020 Budget - an increase from $2.2b in 2019.
Police officers said yesterday such an initiative like a social media analysis centre has the potential to greatly assist TTPS systems, providing material on a wide range of issues from incidents of crime and terrorism to cross border issues contributing to crime.
In 2020 TTPS will be expanding its fleet from 1,668 to 1,900 vehicles.
The PSIP stated, “This increased mobility will improve TTPS’ efficiency and effectiveness by improving the level of service provided to citizens, increased police visibility nationwide and improved operational capability throughout the organisation.”
“An allocation of $30 million will assist TTPS in purchasing the following types of vehicles: Sport Utility Sedan, Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC), and Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV).
Griffith had advocated the use of APCs since 2014 when he was the PP Government’s National Security Minister. APCs are built to transport protective services/troops and are geared for self-defence and to protect passengers from small-arms fire or shrapnel.
As Minister, Griffith sparked controversy in 2014 when he said six APCs were being purchased to add to similar carriers the Defence Force previously had. He said the APCs would be used for situations including counter-terrorism activity or bombings, explosive devices or hostages. He also planned to order 20 armoured vehicles, similar to Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) with bullet-proof glass were also being acquired. It was estimated one vehicle would have cost around $1 million.
Griffith had said police had come under gunfire, with cars being riddled with bullets and he’d said only criminals should fear APCs. He noted APCs were used by Canadian authorities in the October incident when Canada’s Parliament was attacked.
At the time then PNM PRO Faris Al-Rawi (now Attorney General) had said the PNM was concerned as to “the mind and management of national security operations, particularly in view of the catastrophic detection and conviction rate” and called on the PP to address particulars of national security assets.
After the PNM took office, in May 2015, a special evaluation committee reviewed the APC acquisition process and former National Security Minister Edmund Dillon said there’d been problems with the initial procurement and APCs wouldn’t be appropriate in areas of TT. Griffith- then out of office - accused Dillon of having an “agenda” of dismantling initiatives of the previous government. Dillon was replaced by Stuart Young as NS Minister in 2019 when Griffith was appointed Commissioner.
Meanwhile, Budget plans include the upgrade of security screening equipment at Piarco and Tobago airports for the capability of automatic explosives detection.
The TTPS was also allocated $25m for Mobile Device Tracking Systems and purchase of Public Order Equipment including conductive energy devices (tasers), canister grenades, sock bean bags, launchers and projectiles, seed pod launchers and rubber batons, rubber pellet grenades, pepper spray and riot gear kits - helmets, arm and chest shields and leg protection gear).
Funding also included $1.5m for refurbishing the Police Commissioner’s residence and $2m to refurbish Police Headquarters.