Union angered by police chief’s gun comment
Claims by the island’s police chief that officials at the ports of entry were assisting in the smuggling of illegal guns into Barbados, have outraged the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW).
Acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith told a news conference yesterday that intelligence had revealed that illegal firearms were coming through legitimate ports of entry and that officials were letting them through either wittingly or unwittingly.
“From an investigative view point, it is clear that there is an abundance of high caliber weapons and large quantities of available ammunition on the streets. What is also clear is that [those] weapons are not lawfully manufactured in Barbados and the wider region, so they are being smuggled into the island. Our intelligence suggests they are coming through legitimate ports of entry, either assisted by officials, or not detected by them at our borders. This is an untenable situation which has to be addressed if we are to stem the flow of these weapons,” Griffith said.
The comment angered the NUPW, which felt that customs officers had been unfairly targeted. The union, which represents the main border security officials at the ports, issued a release this afternoon expressing “outrage” at the commissioner’s comments, which it described as “inflammatory and without basis”.
“If police intelligence suggests that these guns are coming through legitimate ports of entry, then officials should be identified and charged for this illegal activity,” the union statement said.
“The union considers the commissioner’s statements to be inflammatory and without basis; and believe they only serve to tarnish the reputations and integrity of all Customs officers.”
The NUPW said it had previously expressed concerns about the proposed transition of the Border Control Unit to the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA), which could result in a reduction of security at Port St Charles and Port Ferdinand. These, the statement added, are also areas of worry to the police commissioner.
“The NUPW takes the opportunity to again ask the Government of Barbados to rethink its decision to move the existing Border Control Unit to the BRA.”
Asked yesterday if he believed some of the guns entering the country illegally were being brought in through ports other than the island’s two main ports of entry, Grantley Adams International Airport and the Bridgetown Port, Griffith hinted that he was concerned about Port St Charles and Port Ferdinand.
“I won’t say we have evidence. I would say there are areas of concern. Obviously the criminal elements will look for the weakest points and it is something that we are very, very [worried about]. These are things which we have to take into consideration, but I wouldn’t say we have any evidence,” he said.
Commissioner Griffith was also of the view that the solution to stemming the influx of illegal guns into the island would be greater cooperation between border security officials, the police force and the public at large.
He also noted that the guns were flowing in so fast, that police efforts to clear them from the streets resulted in large numbers still existing.
Griffith was particularly worried about the number of high-powered firearms being smuggled into Barbados.