HEAD of the Legal Unit of the police Christian Chandler has been accused of overstepping his authority by threatening to discipline errant police officers within his unit.
In a branch order issued on May 11, Chandler informed the staff at Tower C, International Waterfront that the intention of the order was to govern the daily operations of the unit. Under the heading “Intention” Chandler writes: “It is also to clearly establish the duties and responsibilities of all employees under the Head Legal Services at Tower C. Failure of any employee to comply with this Branch Order will result in disciplinary action as deemed fit in the appropriate circumstances, by the Head Legal Services.”
The order which was circulated only to Tower C staff, caused police officers to question the authority that Chandler has to discipline police officers. In a WhatsApp response to Newsday, president of the Police Service Social and Welfare Association, Insp Gideon Dickson said Chandler did not have any authority to discipline officers as he is a civilian. The order also mandates that women in the office either wear or have readily available high-heeled shoes in the event of a meeting.
“There is no authority for such action to take place. That cannot happen and will not happen” Dickson said.
The officers said they have no qualms with Chandler disciplining civilian staff but questioned what legal authority he has to discipline police.
Senior Counsel Israel Khan, who has defended police officers and represented the police association on a number of cases, also questioned the legality of Chandler’s order.
“This seems to be encroaching on the powers of the Commissioner of Police. It seems that he is overreaching and out of the law for a civilian to do that.”
Chandler’s appointment last year as the head of the Legal Unit, raised concerns since he had represented both CoP Gary Griffith and his wife Nicole Dyer-Griffith in separate cases and is currently on record for representing Griffith in an ongoing matter between a former radio talk-show host and Griffith.
Last year, Griffith said Chandler was hired to review matters involving police officers who had taken the TTPS to court. He was also employed to ensure that officers, when required, attend all court matters. Griffith added then that Chandler applied for the post of Head of Legal, he was instead interviewed for and selected for the post of Director, Legal, Civil and Administration, after topping the interview.
Newsday was informed that the association was also looking into the transferring of a police officer from the Legal Unit who raised concerns about the powers Chandler claimed to have. The officer, Mark Williams, was transferred last Wednesday to the Northern Division. The officer informed the association that he contacted the Police Commissioner who had no knowledge of the transfer and it was rescinded. The following day, he was told to report to the Penal Police Station in the Southern Division for duty beginning last Friday.
The association source said when Williams went to assume duty at the Penal Police Station, he was told that there was no official word of his transfer and was told to go back to the Legal Unit and await official word of his transfer. His official correspondence came on Wednesday this week. Usually, an officer is granted 14 days notice of their transfer.
In a Whatsapp response, Chandler said: “All of the above is totally false and misleading, which clearly is a lot of hearsay, wilfully designed to hide behind. If what the association and or this officer, as stated by you, is true, then I challenge either or both of them to make an official report and or statement. As Head Legal yes I drafted orders which would govern my department and which were authorised and signed by the CoP.
“Further to which, any police officer transferred was done by the CoP and done in accordance with the law, and which does not require 14 days notice, yet still, the CoP granted the officer 14 days notice. These are just spurious allegations by persons seeking to undermine the authority of the CoP as a consequence of the changes being advanced within the organisation, which they are clearly fearful of and thus their only recourse is to advance conjecture. These frivolous accusations come as no surprise as the CoP, with my assistance, steadfastly moves toward ridding the service of rogue indisciplined police officers.”
Newsday was told that the Police Commissioner can delegate a police officer with the rank of superintendent and above to discipline police officers according to the Police Service Act and the Constitution. Chandler, a retired police officer did not attain that rank prior to his departure from the service.
Division of Labour
In another departmental order dated April 7, the Legal Unit introduced a compliance and monitoring unit which will be monitoring traditional and social media pages for infractions against police officers. The unit will also follow up on all Freedom of Information requests; monitor the Magistrates’ Court for dismissed cases where police officers failed to attend; track all matters against the Police Commissioner.
The order also forbids officers from the unit to submit any files to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) without it first being sent to Chandler. Unit heads are also forbidden from ordering their subordinates to submit files to the DPP without Chandler’s of Griffith’s approval.
“No police officer shall proffer a charge against ANY person in any matter which involves a matter of high public interest, a public official and or any other matter of a sensitive nature without consulting/informing the Commissioner of Police or Head Legal Services” the order states.
The order further states that any officer given the clearance to charge anyone listed as high public interest, that officer must inform either Chandler or the Police Commissioner before charging said person.
The Legal Unit was formed on April 17, 2019 with Chandler being the Director of Legal Services. The April 7 order renamed Chandler’s position to the Head Legal Services and he reports only to the Police Commissioner. Both the Commissioner and Chandler, according to the departmental order, have authority to assign and remove anyone in the unit.