PCA chairman knocks police officer who put pregnant mom off PBR

Wednesday, October 12, 2016 - 05:15

Police Complaints Authority director David West yesterday chastised the police officer who issued a ticket to the husband of a then pregnant and in labour Arlene Laban-Ammon for using the Priority Bus Route and forced them off the route during an emergency.

He said while the PCA could not investigate the matter as “it is not one of serious police misconduct,” he said it could be seen as “an act of stupidity” on the officer’s part.

West said this particular case could be used to make another request for greater training of police officers, especially when dealing with the public.

He made the comment during the Rotary Club's luncheon at Goodwill Industries, Fitzblackman Drive, Port-of-Spain.

Transit Police Unit officer, Supt Phillips, came under heavy criticism two weeks ago after he stopped Laban-Ammon’s husband, Donny, along the PBR as he was taken her to the hospital while she was in labour. Phillips then instructed a female colleague to charge them for using the PBR illegally, a $2,000 citation, before putting them off the PBR.

The couple eventually spent over two hours in traffic and arrived at the hospital just in time, but doctors had to do a C-section to deliver the baby, named Armani.

Ammon-Laban has asked for an apology from the officer and her husband plans to challenge the ticket in court.

But Phillips has since reportedly called in on a television programme to give his side of the story. He claimed the woman did not appear to be in distress and never indicated she was in labour.

Yesterday, West said the matter was not a criminal offence or police corruption and therefore could not be probed by the PCA. But he noted it showed a level of insensitivity of the part of the officer.

“What they need is training of the officers and how to use their discretion,” West said.

Alerted to the fact that both baby and mother could have died due to the delay in getting to the hospital, West maintained it was not serious police misconduct, but agreed with businessman Jeremy Matouk that it was perhaps “a case of stupidity.”

“The woman could have died. The baby could have died. If that is not police misconduct then what is?” Matouk posed to West, who again said it did not fall under the definition of serious police misconduct. 

“Stupidity?” Matouk then asked, to which West agreed, saying, “Yes. That is why we call for training of officers who deal with those situations.”

West also urged better training of officers when also dealing with handicapped people.

On the issue of complaints levelled against police officers, West said assault was the most common, adding that from October 2014 to September 2015 there were 321 complaints, of which 90 were assaults. He said he could not supply 2016 figures but due to the number of complaints there has been a backlog of cases because they did not have enough investigators to deal with the cases.

West also reiterated the call for amendments to the PCA Act so as to strengthen the organisation. He said the recommendations were before the legislative review committee, following which it would be decided whether or not they would be taken to Cabinet.

“When we ask for these powers it would not be in a vacuum,” West said, adding the PCA needed the power to stop and search people for weapons and ammunition if it related to an investigation.

“We need to be exempted under the Firearms Act so as to seize firearms from crime scenes and carry them for testing.”

He also said the Government should amend the Dangerous Drugs Act as the PCA, when on a crime scene, would like to take possession of narcotics and send it for testing.

West also said there was also a need to amend the Interception of Communications Act to be able to access information from any communications network if the PCA’ is probing a matter. 

“In the SSA Act we do not want to be able to tap phones. We want to be able to corroborate the information the complainant gives us,” he said.

SOURCE: www.guardian.co.tt (Geisha Kowlessar)

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