FORMER policeman turned lawyer Christian Chandler plans to train police to become better court prosecutors in his new role as director of legal for the TT Police Service's (TTPS) Legal Unit.
Sunday Newsday spoke with Chandler who spent ten years as in the service and retired as a corporal. He began practising law nine years ago starting off in criminal law and eventually branching off into civil law before leaving private practice to become the legal directory for the TTPS. Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith was his client in a matter involving the Police Service Commission (PSC).
Chandler said his aim was to improve the skills of police prosecutors who sometimes went up against senior defence attorneys. He added some officers neglected their responsibilities by not going to court to address their matters.
He said: "I definitely want to improve the prosecution arm of the Police Service. What I intend to do is to revisit some of the regulations in the Police Service Act. Police have to make attending court their priority; that is something that has been falling by the wayside.
"One of my intentions is to ensure police attend court so that cases will not collapse due to their absence."
Chandler said he planned to hold seminars on a monthly or bi-monthly basis where he would have state prosecutors to lecture his fellow colleagues and provide them with up-to-date rulings. While the position is a contractual one for two years, Chandler is hopeful that his efforts will bear fruit.
Police officers are eligible to become court prosecutors if they are at the rank of sergeant or have a law degree.
Defence attorney Larry Williams said the plan to train police prosecutors was a good idea as that should result in officers having an improved conviction rate. He said while arrests rates were good, convictions were the ultimate prize for policing.
Sunday Newsday also spoke with former members of the Court and Process Branch who welcomed the idea of continued training. Calls to Snr Supt John Fredericks, who is in charge of the unit, went unanswered while other senior officers within the unit opted not to comment.
Chandler said, "One of the disadvantages is that these prosecutors are up against trained and seasoned attorneys. What we intend to do is to equip them with the necessary tools to be more efficient."
Last year, Chandler represented Griffith who threatened to sue the PSC. At the time, Griffith was vying for the top cop position and sent a pre-action protocol letter because the PSC, according to him, “breached several legal notices.” He accused the commission of using a biased merit system and asserted that it had no right to do its own assessments in grading the merit list of candidates, as it was not in the legal notice. The letter also requested that recommendations made by the commission against Griffith be rescinded and they pay his $3,000 legal fee. Chandler wrote that the initial selection process was fair and transparent.
Chandler denied his appointment was linked to his previous work for Griffith and said he had applied for the advertised position and won. Chandler replaced Kazim Ali who headed the unit under acting commissioner Stephen Williams.
Chandler said, "I can't see why people trying to tie that (him representing Griffith) into that. That is not anything that is hidden. I wrote to the PSC on his behalf. Let me tell you this he (Griffith) was not part of the interview process in any way.
"As far as I am aware there was an independent panel and they recommended to him. I don't know as a fact if he had the power to select. There was an interview and a selection process."
Asked why he walked away from a lucrative private practice to train police to become better at prosecuting, Chandler said he did it for the love of God and country. He said when he applied for the position he was mostly doing civil matters and, at the time, considered himself a civil attorney and not a criminal attorney.
He added: "This goes beyond financial gain for me, our country is in a crisis as it pertains to crime. There is an old saying that the only way for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing. If I am to do nothing and watch crime unravel, what country am I leaving for my children?
"I have young children and I would like to know that I would have contributed in some way to a safer TT. I am not concerned about money but to serve my country, that to me is the higher calling, that is what I am about, the higher calling to serve God and country and save myself for last."
Chandler, when asked, said he would not disclose his remuneration package saying it was no different from his predecessor.