Acting CoP: I had to step in
By Andre Bagoo Wednesday, August 29 2012
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WHILE Minister of National Security Jack Warner said on Monday Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams was called by Cumuto MP Collin Partap to the Belmont Police Station to deal with a “confrontational situation” there on Sunday, Williams yesterday said he was not specifically “directed to” Belmont.
Williams, for a second day in a row, declined to address lingering questions or respond to queries from Newsday. However, in an interview granted to CNC 3 yesterday morning, he gave an account of why he thought it necessary to intervene in the Partap case.
“I thought it necessary on the very said morning based on all the circumstances to go to Port-of- Spain,” he said. “I was not directed to Belmont. I was going to Port-of-Spain to address a situation.” He continued, “Subsequently I reached Belmont Police Station because at the very point in time on my way discovered that Minister Partap was then at Belmont Police Station and I went to Belmont Police Station where I addressed the very said situation that I was going into Port-of- Spain to address.”
Williams did not say what “the situation” he was heading into Port-of-Spain was, or why that situation was placed on the back-burner to deal with the Partap situation.
On Monday, however, Warner issued a statement criticising Partap for issuing a “request” to Williams to come to the Belmont Police Station.
“At approximately 5:00 am the then Minister in the Ministry of National Security, Collin Partap, made a call to the Acting Commissioner of Police, Stephen Williams, advising him of a confrontational situation with police officers,” Warner said in a statement. “Williams exercised his discretion to arrive at the Belmont Police Station to ascertain the level of the confrontation.”
Warner said the Ministry later “conducted its own investigations” which determined “there was no evidence of any confrontational situation between the then Minister Partap and any police officer and as such the then Minister’s request for the presence of the Acting Commissioner of Police was deemed injudicious, unnecessary and inappropriate.”
Williams, in a newspaper report published on Monday, said he “stepped in to take charge of the situation involving Minister Partap.” “It was imperative for me to assume direct leadership and the matter was addressed. I am preparing an official report for the Minister of National Security on the matter,” he was quoted as saying then.
Newsday asked Williams yesterday why he was present at the Belmont Police Station. He responded to the question thus, “I spoke to a reporter and said tomorrow there would be a press conference and I would entertain all the questions. The best thing to do is to have a press conference with everybody at the same time and make myself available. I can answer that question and all the questions whether you have one question or ten questions.”
Pressed further as to why it was necessary for him to get involved in the Partap case, he said, “That is what I will answer for you. I am making myself fully available for all your questions.”
Williams is the Acting Commissioner of Police and his contract is due for renewal next year. To date, he has not ruled out applying for the substantive post of Police Commissioner, a post which would have to see his appointment approved by the Parliament.
Former chairman of the Police Service Commission Kenneth Lalla SC yesterday said it was premature to come to conclusions in relation to Williams’ intervention in the absence of more information. “My own view is that he cannot be faulted unless you can establish that he showed partiality, that is to say that he sought to release this man,” Lalla said. “The matter is yet to be disposed of. They still have to determine whether there should be charges. That is yet to be seen.”
Lalla said it was up to the Commissioner of Police to exercise his discretion in relation to cases involving ministers.
“The Commissioner of Police is the head of the Police Service and his responsibility extends to every segment of the Police Service not just headquarters,” Lalla said. “He has a duty to respond to any incident he would have deemed necessary. Here, you have a minister in the Ministry of National Security, designated under the Constitution. He was just not a simple individual and the events would have warranted his presence.”
Asked if this effectively meant there was one law for minister and another law for citizens, Lalla said, “I don’t see it that way. The CoP has not transgressed any law. He is head of the Police Service and he has a right to appear anywhere and at any time. He felt this was an incident — big or small — in which he should intervene.”