A three-page statement issued yesterday by Director of the TTPS Public Affairs Unit, Sharon Lee Assang, on behalf of Gibbs, pointed out that the aircraft was leased and not purchased.
“We are committed to using all the appropriate tools at our disposal to fight and reduce serious crime and airborne surveillance is just one important element in that effort.
“We will be testing a light aircraft as part of that initiative, as well as possible alternative and complementary hardware such as helicopters and even unmanned drones, and will arrive at a solution that is both fiscally responsible and highly effective in identifying and fighting criminal activity of all types.
“The TTPS did not purchase any such aircraft but have leased the aircraft for testing and evaluation. We are simply conducting a 12-week feasibility study to determine whether this type of aircraft would enhance our airborne crime fighting capabilities.”
The statement which was contained in two paragraphs, came at the end of the release and was issued following an announcement by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Saturday that Gibbs had “acted without authority in the procurement of the Zenith Air Scout Surveillance aircraft at an estimated cost of $902,772.”
While many believe the leasing of the aircraft will cost Gibbs the post of Commissioner of Police (CoP), sources told Newsday that the acquisition of the aircraft might very well have been within his purview as accounting officer of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.
Newsday understands that if the CoP’s contract did not detail the scope of Gibbs’ financial authority, then the acquisition could very well be a valid one.
Former head of the Police Service Commission (PSC), Kenneth Lalla yesterday said if Gibbs had breached any aspect of his contract through his conduct and actions in respect of several matters including the leasing of the aircraft, then he would have already been dismissed.
Lalla said, “The public is unaware of the terms and conditions of Gibbs’ contract. The PSC which has the authority to terminate his contract has not disclosed what they are. In my own interpretation, if the CoP had breached any terms of his contract, then they would certainly have terminated his contract. One can only interpret that so far, there has been no breach of the contract.”
Responding to questions about whether Gibbs had in fact over-stepped his authority as CoP with regards to the leasing of the light sport aircraft to carry out aerial surveillance, Lalla explained that the post of Police Commissioner was a contract position, and therefore the office holder was not governed by the same regulations as police officers who “are public officers.” The three-page release sought to provide clarity in respect of several issues including Gibbs’ educational credentials, the introduction of new uniforms for police officers, and the use of the Longdenville Police Post as a Police Service Centre.
Referring to “inaccurate commentary concerns about the educational credentials of our Commissioner of Police,” the release stated that the facts provided could easily be verified.
The release stated that Gibbs had completed “all coursework and received his joint PhD/MBA programme from California Coast University in 2006,” which was an accredited agency of the US Department of Education, and also listed the title of Gibbs’ dissertation which was entitled, “Police Officer Acceptance of Community Policing: The Edmonton Experience.”
Dismissing claims by PNM MP Colm Imbert about Gibbs’ degrees, the release also contained a list of the CoP’s other academic qualifications.
Addressing the issue of the acquisition of new police uniforms, the release said the newly-designed uniforms “were commissioned as a pilot programme intended as a prelude to widespread adoption of more climate appropriate and comfortable apparel for the benefit of all of our officers.
“Some 300 uniforms were purchased as part of this pilot at a cost of approximately $550,000, far less than the sum being reported,” and are to be used at the Police Training Academy as part of the trainee attire.
The response about the uniforms followed allegations levelled against Gibbs by PNM MP Donna Cox that “big money” had been spent to acquire the new uniforms which were yet to be distributed.
Secretary of the Police Social and Welfare Association, Michael Seales, claimed that the new uniforms, which had been purchased last April, had cost taxpayers $8 million.
Also responding to concerns by the public over the alleged closure of the Longdenville Police Post, the release claimed the facility had “been converted to a Police Service Centre and also provides office space for the Community Relations Section of the Service.”
Gibbs claimed that, “An essential element of this conversion redeploys officers previously stationed at the post awaiting calls for response to active patrols of streets and neighbourhoods as a much more effective crime prevention resource.”