Clash with police outside Hyatt …” I WAS TREATED LIKE A CRIMINAL”

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Robert Le Hunte, Minister of Public Utilities, insists that he was treated like a murderer and a criminal by police officers outside the Hyatt Hotel on Sunday night.

That is why he called Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith. And that is why Griffith left what he was doing and scooted down to the Hyatt to scold his officers.

Le Hunte is denying a report that he was pulled over by police officers along Dock Road, Port of Spain, for speaking on his cell phone.

He added, “I entered an area, to enter the Hyatt, a place that I entered about two hours before with no problem and I was not aware that I was doing something wrong. A police officer stopped me and told me I was entering a restricted area and he gave me directions to proceed to another area. I complied with those directions.”

Le Hunte said he only contacted Griffith because he took umbrage with the way he was treated by the police officers.

He added, “I however felt that the instructions, and the rough manner in which the officer was speaking, was not in keeping with what I felt was right for customer service and that together with the fact there wasn’t signage is when I brought to the attention of the Commissioner the lack of signage in that particular area because I thought the same thing could happen to someone else.”

In response, Griffith said the officers acted inappropriately when they stopped Le Hunte on Sunday night, as they tried to issue him with a ticket for driving through a no entry zone at the corner of Wrightson Road and Dock Road.

Griffith also denied initial police reports that Le Hunte was on his phone while driving. Griffith said it was not unusual for him to take phone calls from concerned citizens and said Le Hunte called him because he was concerned about the arrogant manner in which police were speaking to him.

Griffith added, “By the time I reached on the scene, he had already left, so I had no interaction with him. But from what I understand, the Minister was trying to turn into the Hyatt from Wrightson Road and thought he could do so, not seeing any no entry signs put up.

“It was an honest mistake on his part and the officers, not knowing that, tried to issue him a ticket. However, something of concern to me was that one of the officers gave the minister a wrong regimental number. By the time I started speaking to that officer, I could tell it wasn’t his real number. This is something I take very seriously and disciplinary action will be taken against this officer.”

He also said that contrary to what the officer told Le Hunte, “It is not against police protocol to speak on a citizen’s cell phone, especially if the person on the other end may be a senior officer.

“Just as how I will come to the assistance of citizens in person who may have been wronged by the police, I will make the same effort to come to the assistance of police in person, if they are ever opposed by citizens acting unlawfully.”

He said the police involved in the incident should have placed proper signs to show Dock Road was closed.

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