Unit Commander tells Commission…‘I did not have confidence in my ranks’
By Latoya Giles
Assistant Superintendent of Police Patrick Todd has admitted that he made the decision to be the one firing “tear smoke” at protestors in Linden, because in his opinion the ranks that were under his command at the time were inexperienced, and he did not have confidence in them performing the said task and other related duties efficiently and effectively.
Todd, who was responding to several questions put to him by Commissioner KD Knights, also revealed that it was the first time that he was with the unit. The Unit Commander was then asked if he had trained
the men, to which he responded in the affirmative.
According to Todd, although all of the ranks were competent of using the weapon to launch the 1.5 cartridge tear smoke canister, he chose to use it so as to prevent any mishap or unnecessary injury, as well as the fact that certain weather conditions had to be taken into consideration, particularly the direction of the wind.
Attorney at law James Bond, continued his cross-examination of the witness yesterday. Todd was asked about who assigned his weaponry for the Linden assignment. According to the officer, he was the person who was responsible for that, indicating that the arms he took to Linden were all part of the standard operating procedure.
Bond attempted to ask questions about the December 6 protest march during which he and several others were shot with rubber pellets, but was cautioned by the Chairman of the Commission, Kinsley Wolfe, not to go down that route.
Bond then asked the witness if any of his ranks or himself received any injuries, since there were claims that persons were throwing missiles at them. Todd replied that he and some of his unit members did receive injuries, but could not go to the hospital.
Canada-based Civil Rights lawyer Selwyn Pieters was the next attorney to question the Unit Commander. He asked Todd about the number of years that he has been in the employ of the force and if he was aware that anyone discharged a firearm at the crowd. To the latter question Todd said that he did not know and would not have agreed to it.
Pieters then suggested to the witness that he “gave Officer English directions to use his weapon”. Todd said that he did not recall that. He was then asked if he knew that another rank, Constable Rodney, also fired a weapon. Todd told the commission that he did not know about this.
That concluded the questioning by Pieters.
Attorney Nigel Hughes, who is representing the families of the victims, was next to question the Assistant Superintendent. Hughes requested that the witness draw, on a white board, his location of the people and the ranks. Todd replied that he was not so artistic.
Hughes then sketched the scene of the shooting with the help of Todd. The witness was also shown a picture of officers who were in operation at Linden on July 18. According to Todd, the photo was taken in the afternoon when the ranks were in a line formation. He was asked if his unit was attacked by the protestors when they were in that formation. He said they were not. The witness was asked to mark his direct location of his unit and the protestors.
After showing the location on the board, Todd was asked if the police knew by standing at that location on the bridge, the persons would have been rendered trapped, since they could have only gone in one direction. Todd said that he did not know this. He was asked if he thought that there would have been a stampede, he again answered in the negative.
Hughes then proceeded to ask the Unit Commander if he “…ever saw anyone who could throw bottles or bricks for over 150 meters by hand”. Todd said that he had not ever seen that.
He was then asked if he had managed to review the tapes which the police took. He said that he did not, since he was on leave, but he admitted to looking at some footage on the internet. Hughes will continue his cross examining the witness when the Commission of Inquiry resumes on Monday.