The interview process for the candidates short-listed for the post of Commissioner of Police (CoP) is over.
Among the final candidates are incumbent Gary Griffith and acting Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Erla Christopher, Sunday Newsday has been reliably informed.
The post of CoP becomes vacant on August 18.
Initially, the Police Service Commission had removed the requirement for candidates to undergo a polygraph test but later included the test after Cabinet intervened, Sunday Newsday was told.
There was no response to questions sent to the commission, headed by Bliss Seepersad, seeking comment on the issue among other queries.
In an attempt to reduce the time to seek candidates for the post, Parliament in July approved an amendment which removed the requirement to advertise internationally and for a recruitment firm of international repute be involved in the interview process.
The Commissioner of Police and Deputy Commissioner of Police (Selection Process) Order 2021 order, published on June 17, shortens this process for the selection of the top cop and three deputies.
According to the order, candidates meeting the academic qualifications will be required to submit a medical report and submit themselves to a security and profession vetting for the best candidates to be short-listed.
At the end of the exercise, the commission has to prepare an order of merit list with the highest graded candidate at the top followed by the other top three candidates, according to their scores, and submit it to President Paula-Mae Weekes in keeping with the procedure set out in section 123 of the Constitution. In turn the President has to submit the name of the highest ranked candidate to Parliament for approval.
The order also allows the commission to submit a list of suitably qualified candidates from among the ranks of the police service, or someone who is, or was on contract, as a nominee to act in the post of CoP or DCP, pending the appointment of substantive nominees.
Two officers, Insp Mark Hernandez and ACP Andre Norton, were previously nominated to fill the existing vacancies of DCPs. Norton, the head of the Police Academy, also applied for the CoP post in July along with 25 other candidates, including Snr Supt Anand Ramesar, Supt Andrew John, Sgt Neil Narine. Seven candidates were short-listed after the interview and security vetting process, Sunday Newsday was informed.
Hernandez, the former head of the Special Operation Response Team, an elite tactical unit under the command of Griffith, was charged with misbehaviour in public office by encouraging the unlawful assault of David Ottley Jr during the Andrea Bharatt murder investigation and can no longer qualify once there is pending charge against him.
On August 10, officers of the Professional Standards Bureau submitted their file to the Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard on their findings relating to the violent deaths of Joel Balcon and Andrew Morris, two other suspects in the Bharatt case. That matter is still under review, police said.
Three years ago, Griffith, a former captain in the Defence Force who served as national security adviser to former prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and later as national security minister in her administration before he was fired, was appointed to the top post in the police service.
Persad-Bissessar had removed Griffith and then attorney general Anand Ramlogan from her cabinet after the director of the Police Complaints Authority David West had complained that Ramlogan offered him the position if he withdrew a statement in the now infamous Section 34 libel action filed by then opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley. Griffith sided with West as a voluntary witness in a yet to be determined witness tampering criminal case against Ramlogan.
According to 2018 confidential assessment records seen by Sunday Newsday, Griffith emerged the top candidate from a field of 14 people in the first phase by accounting firm KPMG. Among those who had applied then were Stephen Williams, who acted as CoP for seven years, Ramesar, Michael Seales (both of whom were in the executive of the police union), former officer Wayne Hayde, McDonald Jacob, who was recently confirmed as a DCP, senior officers Harrikreshen Baldeo, Glen Hackett, Irwin Hackshaw, Vincel Edwards, all now retired, Erla Christopher, former head of the Strategic Services Agency Matthew Andrews, Supt Wayne Thongs and defeated UNC St Joseph candidate Alloy Hunt, a retired soldier.
In the second round of assessment, Griffith who had no experience as a police officer, scored the highest with a combined total of 70.29 ahead of Williams with 69.17, Hayde with 62.41 and Hackett with 60.36, according to documents seen by Sunday Newsday.
On June 29, Griffith announced his decision to reapply for the post after his three-year contract expires and challenged his critics to put their hat in the ring confidently saying, "let’s see if you're better qualified, better experienced, better trained. Go ahead and apply and see what it feels to be second place.”
On July 1, at the formal opening of the Carenage Police Station, the Prime Minister when asked about the possibility of Griffith returning as CoP said: “We in the Cabinet keep an open mind on matters of national interest like that. The Cabinet has a duty to keep an open mind. The authority (Police Service Commission) advises us and we will look at the advice with an open mind as you would have seen us doing before. We came into Government in 2015, we had an open mind, a very open mind, we had recommendations made to us, we took serious decisions to impact on the police service and I can tell you we have made some significant progress. There is a long way to go, but we have made some significant progress. There have been some ups and downs but nothing is perfect, but we work towards perfection,"