Acting Commissioner of Police (CoP) Stephen Williams deserves an apology from Cabinet, Parliament, former president Anthony Carmona, and the Police Service Commission (PSC) for being given 12 six-month extensions without being confirmed as the head of the TT Police Service.
Former PSC chairman Prof Ramesh Deosaran made the call last Thursday during his address, Challenges to Caribbean Police Commissioners: The Public, Criminals and Politicians, at the 33rd Annual Conference of the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police (ACCP), in Jamaica.
“It’s a matter of principle,” Deosaran told the conference where acting Assistant Police Commissioner McDonald Jacob deputised for Williams.
“There should be no debate, as there has been, over whether an acting commissioner should perform as well as one with permanent appointment,” Deosaran said.
The criminologist said the authorities should be ashamed for giving Williams 12 acting appointments which he described as a “Caribbean record-breaker,” noting the practice would have had “troubling downstream consequences” as other senior officers also remained in acting positions for long periods.
“Such a situation in the Caribbean should never happen if a commissioner is expected to perform effectively and be held accountable. Especially when the region faces a frightful list of threatening, dangerous crimes,” he said.
Deosaran raised the question of the impact the continuous reappointments had on Williams.
“What does this say for public confidence in an acting commissioner, the self-confidence of the acting commissioner himself, and possibly his vulnerability to political pressures?”
However, he commended Williams for the respect he has shown, noting it was an embarrassing position for him not only locally but in the region.
“Yet, whatever his performance, acting commissioner Williams has walked the beat with his head held high, respectful to the political directorate, Parliament and the Police Service Commission. He has faced the jokes from the public and his Caricom peers with a smile, no doubt hiding his own embarrassment.”
Williams has repeatedly applied for the full-time position of police commissioner ever since the Patrick Manning government rejected his nomination in Parliament in 2008.
However, Williams kept being reappointed by the PSC ever since Canadian Dwayne Gibbs resigned in 2012 as police commissioner under pressure from the public, within the service and from government circles although he had been approved by the Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration. Deosaran was chairman of the PSC from April 2011 to August 2014.
The selection of a CoP has been fraught with administrative challenges, and the recent nomination of Deodath Dulalchan led to the establishment of a Special Select Committee (SSC) of Parliament to review the process, after it emerged that Dulalchan, who had applied to be a deputy police commissioner was also interviewed by the PSC for the police commissioner post.
Williams had again applied to be police commissioner but was ranked third, behind Dulalchan and Harold Phillip, who was also interviewed for the post, although he had applied to be a deputy commissioner. Dulalchan and Phillip are currently acting deputy commissioners. Allegations were also made about Dulalchan’s acquisition of agricultural lands which has since been reviewed by the Agriculture Ministry questioning the approval granted by the Commissioner of State Lands.
Also, there has been a split between Government and the Opposition over the SSC report which is yet to be debated in the Lower House. A majority report stated the PSC acted outside of its remit to be directly involved in the interviews, especially to approach Dulalchan for the top cop post. The Opposition, claiming it had not seen the majority report, has shared publicly its view in a minority report that the PSC’s actions did not compromise the process and Dulalchan’s nomination should go before the Parliament.
How commissioners are appointed and “governed” was also addressed by Deosaran as he noted that prolonged acting appointments had become the “poisoned rule” rather than the exception in the region.