The charges stem from an incident in which Lewis of Coronation Road, Upper Sangre Grande, who was believed to be a suspect in a series of house breakings in the Eastern Division, was detained and taken to the Sangre Grande police station on February 24.
It is alleged that when Lewis refused to co-operate, he was then stripped naked, and a bowl of water was heated in a microwave and then thrown on his lower extremities and stomach. Lewis later made a report at the station that he was beaten and burned while in custody and was taken to the Sangre Grande Hospital where he was treated for first and second degree burns.
Lewis was later transferred to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex due to the severity of the burns. Reports say a catheter had to be inserted for him to urinate and doctors have had to do corrective plastic surgery to his lower extremities.
Following the incident, five of the officers were transferred to various police stations in the Eastern Division. In the early hours of Monday morning, three of the suspects were arrested at their homes by officers of the Professional Standards Bureau, (PSB), with assistance from Guard and Emergency, Inter Agency Task Force, Criminal Gang Intelligence Unit and Fraud Squad while the other nine later gave themselves up.
The officers involved in interrogating Lewis were charged late Thursday night by ASP Nisha with assistance from other officers of the PSB following instructions from the DPP. A source at the PSB said officers finished laying charges against the twelve around 2 am yesterday morning. Gaspard confirmed to Newsday that he gave instructions for nine of the officers to be charged with misbehaviour in public office, two for attempting to pervert the course of public justice and the last officer with failing to act pursuant to a report of a serious crime being committed. The last charge, Gaspard said is a summary offence contrary to the Police Service Act while the 11 officers face indictable charges.
Meanwhile a source at the PSB said while bail could be granted to the officers, as the charges were “bailable,” certain conditions should be attached because of the seriousness and gravity of the situation. The senior officer stressed that the granting of bail to the officers rested with the Justice of the Peace. He said certain factors needed to be taken into consideration such as possible absconding and safety of the witness. He said passports of the suspects could be seized as a precaution. The officer revealed that a threat assessment on the officers was still being conducted to ascertain whether the witness should be moved to a safe house.
Police sources say the arrest of so many officers at one time and the subsequent laying of charges against them could go a long way in restoring public confidence in the police.
Investigations into the conduct of the 12 officers were spearheaded by Assistant Commissioner of Police and head of the PSB Harriskrishen Baldeo with assistance from Supt Renwick, Sgts Daniel, Rollock, Seepersad, PC Marcano and others.