The officer who was promoted only on Thursday to a senior rank to fill a vacancy in Tobago, was supposed to take up the key position on Thursday.
At about 5 pm while the aircraft was taxiing on the runway at Piarco International Airport, the officer’s cellphone began ringing. He was advised by a flight attendant to switch off the phone. The officer did not turn off the phone which rang several times, and the flight attendant repeatedly warned him of the danger of the phone being on while the plane was taxiing for take off.
The flight attendant made a report to one of the pilots and after the senior officer was spoken to, he requested that he be allowed to disembark. The officer reportedly told the flight attendant and pilot that he had difficulty in switching off the phone, and it was not his desire to cause any problems. Newsday understands the pilot turned around the aircraft and allowed the senior cop to disembark where he first boarded. The pilot then awaited clearance from air traffic controllers for permission to taxi on the runway again and proceed on the flight to Tobago. It remained unclear, up until late yesterday, whether the senior officer boarded another aircraft to Tobago, or if he was still in Trinidad.
Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams yesterday confirmed a report was made at the Piarco Police Station at 12.05 am yesterday by the flight attendant about an incident involving a senior officer. He said based on the report in the station diary the officer was spoken to about his cellphone ringing while the plane was taxiing and admitted he could not switch it off.
Williams said, “I still have concerns with the matter, and I have assigned DCP Hackett to investigate it.”
Director of Civil Aviation Ramesh Lutchmedial told Newsday he was unaware of the incident, as no report was made to him, or the Civil Aviation Authority. When asked by Newsday if any breach of civil aviation rules may have occurred because of the officer’s refusal to switch off his cellphone Lutdhmedial said, “I cannot answer as I am not even sure that the incident happened, but if I do get any information I will certainly respond to your question.”
Commenting yesterday, Inspector Anand Ramesar, president of the Police Social and Welfare Association said, “Our officers must know that they have to be exemplars in society, and simple rules must be followed. The report reeks of indiscipline and it is necessary for the Acting CoP to call for this matter to be investigated and demonstrate the repercussions of indiscipline by First Division officers.” Acting Inspector Michael Seales, the association’s secretary, said no one should be spared if found breaching civil aviation rules, given global concerns about terrorism, adding they will be awaiting a report on the incident. “The Association condemns any activity that runs afoul of the civil aviation rules, regardless of rank and position,” he said.