Trinidad soldiers to get powers similar to police(March 01, 2013)
The use of the Defence Force in the fight against crime is not new as soldiers have been accompanying police officers on raids and joint patrols during the last decade.
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Friday March 1, 2013 – The Trinidad and Tobago government has announced plans to give soldiers powers similar to that of the police as it moves to crack down on an escalation of crime in the country.
The coalition People’s Partnership government is tabling legislation Friday that will give members of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force (TTDF) authority to function and perform the duties of a police officer.
A release from the Attorney General's office late Thursday night said that Cabinet had earlier approved and confirmed a note brought by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan to give effect to the legislation.
It said the proposed bill will give legal protection to Defence Force personnel when they accompany police officers to assist in the detection, investigation and prosecution of criminal offences.
"They will enjoy the same rights, privileges and immunities as police officers. They will have the same powers as police officers, including power to arrest, search, seize and to carry arms.”
It said that government will ensure Defence Force personnel would be trained in areas such as police practice and procedure, investigations, law and court process to ensure they are properly equipped to undertake their duties alongside police officers.
It said that the government has ensured that while members of the TTDF are to be placed on an equal legal footing and benefit from the same powers that police officers enjoy while actually engaging in operations with the police, they will not be permitted to embark on policing exercises on their own.
"In so doing members of the TTDF would be afforded the necessary protection in carrying out functions with the TTPS (Trinidad and Tobago Police Service)," the release said, noting that at present TTDF members enjoy no powers of arrest other than those possessed by ordinary citizens.
According to the release, the use of the Defence Force in the fight against crime is not new as soldiers have been accompanying police officers on raids and joint patrols during the last decade.
"Under the previous administration, soldiers were also drafted into SAUTT to assist the police in the detection and investigation of serious crimes," the statement said, adding that the legislative measure will augment and increase the capacity of the Police Service and house such an initiative in a proper legislative footing.
"It can lead to an immediate boost and increase in the strength of the TTPS. It would also provide comfort and relief to members of the TTDF who have been involved in the fight against crime by ensuring that they are adequately protected in the performance of their duties.
"The TTDF will, no doubt, exercise these additional powers with the discipline, maturity and responsibility that has thus far characterised their involvement in the fight against crime by way of assisting and complementing the TTPS," the release added.
So far this year, 76 people have been killed.