More than 300 firearm licences issued over a two-week period
STORY By PETER GREEN
During the period March 2nd to 15th, 2020 when Commissioner Gary Griffith was out of the country, some 300 firearm users’ licences (FULs) were issued. It is alleged that persons who received their gun licence during that period had to pay bribes from as low as $20,000 to as high as $50,000.
In most cases, the licences were issued to persons who had applied mere days before. In the meanwhile, there are hundreds of persons who have been awaiting approvals for years and whose applications have not yet been finalised.
It would appear that between 2 – 15 March, all the protocols for approval were bypassed. These include:
-a recommendation from the head of the Police Division in which the applicant resides
-psychometric evaluation of the applicant
-up to date address
-certificate of good character
-a passport-sized picture
-evidence that the applicant is capable of using a firearm
The approval process normally takes several weeks, at best or many months at worst.
During the six-year tenure of Ag Commissioner Stephen Williams, it has been reported that no more than 200 FUL approvals were issued annually despite the pleas of the business community. Things were so bad during that period that there was a thriving, illegal trade where applicants would bribe senior police officials as much as $60,000 to get a FUL.
With the appointment of Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, the process was thoroughly reviewed and on January 2nd, 2019, Griffith revamped the process and promised to address the two decades of the backlog of applicants. He provided additional staff for the Firearms Unit, new offices at the St Clair Police Station, computerised the department and increased the limit on the amount of ammunition that can be held by a licenced firearm holder from 25 rounds to 40 rounds.
Griffith had urged the public to not pay any bribes to any police officer for a FUL. He reminded that “there is no cost for a FUL”. The new policy saw applications being approved within weeks and the backlog which had existed was being gradually reduced.
The ire of several individuals who had in applications for several years without success was raised to a fever pitch when their colleagues were boasting and saying how easy the process was. “Just pay up”, one such recipient advised.
Many refused to pay saying it was inequality of treatment and was done while Griffith was out of the country just before the ‘Stay at Home’ order was announced,” Sunshine Today was told. One police intelligence source said a central businessman, who had lost his firearm before, was able to secure three licences under officers of that Division who are known for misbehaviour in public office. “CoP Griffith we will like an investigation,” some angry businessmen said.
The racket was achieved in three stages
The racket which occurred in March was achieved in three stages.
Stage 1. The owner of an armoury in the South would apply on behalf of his friends and insist on the payment of the bribe.
Stage 2. Once payment is made, the armoury owner contacts the relevant Officer in the Firearms Unit.
Stage 3. The officer in the Unit places the completed FUL files on the CoP’s desk for signature since, according to law, only the Commissioner of Police can approve a FUL.
Sunshine Today was reliably informed that “heads will roll” in the Western Division if Griffith conducts a thorough investigation into the matter. When contacted by this newspaper on the subject, an angry Griffith said, “I would meet with the relevant heads in the Firearms Department to verify what transpired. Meanwhile, I would continue to ask all who wish to acquire a firearm to be patient and not be involved in such practices.
There are over 40,000 applicants. Before my watch, less than 200 FULs were being granted annually. I have done everything possible to increase that but must adhere to the mandatory policies to ensure that those acquiring it, are indeed qualified to so do. We are doing our best, but paying person under a table to fast track your approval is not the way to go”. (sic)
Another scandal making the rounds in the Police Service is that of a very senior Police Officer instructing that eight files be removed from the Professional Standards Bureau (PSB) and be brought to him. These files are related to an investigation on the officer concerned.