The Police Service Commission (PSC) has instructed acting Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith to go on administrative leave from Tuesday pending the outcome of separate enquires into allegations of corruption in the grant of firearm user's licences under his three-year tenure.
Griffith was scheduled to resume work on Tuesday after a two-week vacation, but received notice from the PSC late on Friday by e-mail after the organisation met in an emergency session, Sunday Newsday confirmed on Saturday.
The latest correspondence followed divergent views from Griffith and National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds on the issue of when Griffith could return to office.
Griffith claimed that Hinds on Thursday had instructed him to remain on leave until further notice after he wrote to both Hinds and the PSC seeking to return a week before his vacation leave expired.
But Hinds, responding in the Senate on Friday to an Opposition query, said he told Griffith to return to work on Tuesday and denied any political interference in the operations of the independent PSC.
On Saturday, Hinds responded briefly via WhatsApp to queries on the issue of Griffith's leave and the pending enquiries into the allegations relating to the grant of firearm user's licences.
"I have spoken clearly on the single matter that required clarification," he said in reference to a conversation he had with Griffith on whether he could resume work before the end of his vacation.
"I am definitely not into the tit for tat! Neither is our government. Nor is Mr Griffith."
Asked whether the decision of the PSC to send Griffith on administrative leave, even as the recruitment process of a substantive office holder is stalled by a High Court injunction, will mean that Deputy Commissioner of Police McDonald Jacob will continue to act as CoP, Hinds said "Those are not matters that are best handled by me. They are all for the PSC."
Griffith, when contacted on Saturday, said his attorneys will now speak on his behalf.
Legal sources said on Friday the PSC can send Griffith on leave beyond September 20 only if there is a pending disciplinary matter or investigation by a competent body.
"The PSC is fully aware of its role and function where it cannot send someone on leave unless, of course, there is a disciplinary matter or there is some investigation that is taking place by relevant law enforcement authorities," Griffith said on Friday.
Griffith's three-year term as commissioner ended on August 17 and the PSC appointed him to act in the post until a substantive office-holder is appointed.
He is among the top candidates interviewed by the PSC. But a High Court judge stalled the process of forwarding the names to President Paula-Mae Weekes after a complaint by one applicant, Snr Supt Anand Ramesar, about the fairness of the process.
In addition, there was an enquiry initiated by the National Security Council (NSC), chaired by the Prime Minister, over allegations of bribes and corruption in the granting of firearm user's licences under Griffith's tenure, and another one by the police and the Police Complaints Authority.
Hinds also told the Senate on Friday that the engagement of retired Rear Admiral Hayden Pritchard and retired Snr Supt Arthur Barrington, formerly of the Special Branch, by the NSC to embark on a fact-finding exercise was above board. He said the NSC could not ignore the public disquiet and other information concerning the granting of gun licences and the report proved to be useful.
Hinds said the Pritchard and Barrington report made "strong and serious recommendations" without naming anyone, and if in the future any matter of criminality arises the police service will treat with it.
The PSC subsequently appointed retired Justice of Appeal Stanley John to look into the allegations. The terms of reference of John's enquiry have not been made public.
Last Thursday, Griffith issued his first public statement in the wake of published reports about the enquiries, claiming that they were fuelled by "detractors and defenders of criminal elements, both inside and outside the police service" in an attempt to affect the process of selecting a police commissioner.