National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds on Friday cited several past incidents of questionable conduct as justification for a bill requiring members of the protective services and some parts of the public service to submit to drug tests or lie detection or to submit their biometric details. He piloted the Miscellaneous Provisions (Testing and Identification) Bill 2022 in the House of Representatives.
He said the bill gives discretion to the head of certain civil service departments or protective services only in specific circumstances, as has already been done in the UK, US and Canada. .
Hinds said some officers had been the subject of serious and long-lasting allegations that they had been involved in “all sorts of activities” and that this bill could be a deterrent to ensure a high level of integrity. Currently, only the police department allows drug testing, he said, at the recruiting stage and then randomly during employment.
Hinds said the law requires a special majority to pass as it violates three areas of the TT Constitution – the right to the protection of the law, family/private life and equal treatment.
He said the bill amends existing statutes such as the Judicial Legal Services Commission (covering the Customs and Excise, Immigration and Inland Revenue Divisions and the Registrar General’s Department), statutes on prison services, defence, fire services and financial intelligence units. Other public bodies, he said, might need to be added to those included in the bill.
Hinds justified the bill by saying that since the 1990s certain corrupt activities such as the importation of drugs and weapons could only occur with the complicity of the state, some of whose officers had now put TT in a position where this bill was needed. “I know of one case where it’s suggested that a man owed this country $11 million in taxes and ended up paying a little $1 million of something like that, and there were serious suspicion from an officer of the state. So much is possible.”
Hinds said an automatic weapon had recently disappeared from a police station under questionable circumstances.
“Weapons have gone missing from the Coast Guard. I am aware of one instance where engines were stolen from a Coast Guard vessel.
“I know customs officers who are paid and sworn to protect our people and our interests and who simply turn a blind eye and allow illicit things to pass.”
He recalled that a police vehicle with two officers in southwest Trinidad was found with firearms and drugs, apprehended by other officers.
Hinds said the bill will protect honest officers from whistleblowing by rogue colleagues.
“These measures will help the protective services to help each other know that the man next to you is not the one who called ahead to tell someone, ‘We’re coming'”