REPORTS that Government’s choice for top cop is Gary Griffith have been largely welcomed by the Opposition but rejected by members of the Police Service. Amid all the reports, one thing is clear. Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has promised a new Police Commissioner by Independence Day. Though reservations are understandable, the time has come for an appointment and for the adoption of creative strategies. All the bacchanal needs to come to an end.
That Griffith served as a minister of national security in the previous PP coalition government is just one hurdle that has been raised. Police officers have voiced concerns over the mixing of politics with policing. But the nature of Griffith’s brief tenure, as well as the circumstances of his dismissal from the post, make his candidacy exceptional.
In any event, all citizens are entitled to serve in public life as long as they are qualified. Griffith’s past as a minister might seem a liability, but it is also an advantage. Having sat on the National Security Council he has worked with previous top cops and understands what is being demanded by the democratically-elected government in a way that no career police officer can.
Furthermore, to say there should be no politics in policing is not to say there should be a ban on former politicians. If that were the case, the entire process by which a top cop is appointed must be scrapped. What matters is the quality of decision-making on a case-by-case basis. There are enough procedures to handle conflicts of interest.
The biggest issue raised, thus far, has been the question of Griffith’s performance as a minister. But you can’t compare apples with oranges. A candidate’s performance as a minister is not a prognosis of their performance in a completely different role. With the bloodbath approaching record levels, an appointment is urgently needed, as is a new creative policy in relation to the selection process.
While the Government and the Opposition should have had the maturity to come up with a better selection framework, the lack of headway on this matter does not prevent the Government from unilaterally outlining its own policy regarding how it exercises its voting rights in Parliament. Such a policy could provide a clear framework and rationale for not only next month’s appointment but any future ones.
Meanwhile, all would do well to revisit the proposal made by criminologist Prof Ramesh Deosaran who, with great foresight, once recommended the direct election of a top cop by the people. As the rejection of three of the Police Service Commission’s candidates in Parliament shows, that is effectively what we already have.