THE COMING to an end of the service of McDonald Jacob, who aged out of the police on Saturday when he turned 61, only serves to underline the complexity of the problems that need to be addressed within our constitutional arrangements.
Mr Jacob’s departure is at once premature and overdue.
Though the Police Service Commission (PSC) anticipates it will have a list of candidates for the post of Commissioner of Police ready soon, that is a hope.
Further, the formulation of a merit list is merely the start of a process.
Candidates will have to be debated and voted on by MPs. It is conceivable the Government and the Opposition may convene talks to explore the possibility of a consensus candidate. All of this would require time.
A leadership vacuum is the last thing we need.
Although there is an acting commissioner in place in the form of DCP Erla Christopher, she, too, is reportedly about to age out.
While a long-standing officer of some distinction – she was once part of a manpower audit of the service – Ms Christopher is also a relative unknown in the public eye. Like Mr Jacob, she applied for the substantive post and is in a kind of limbo.
At the same time, Mr Jacob will go down in history as the man at the helm when this country recorded its highest-ever murder tally and there will be those who, for this reason, will say his exit could not have come sooner.
This position has already been taken by former commissioner of police Gary Griffith, who was replaced by Mr Jacob. There is some merit in it.
Yet, it does not seem to matter who is in the hot seat.
The current systems relating to the recruitment, evaluation, dismissal and remuneration of the police top brass are such as to undermine any real sense of urgency or independence on the part of a post-holder, substantive or otherwise.
If we blame Mr Jacob, we must also blame the systems that have brought the police service to where it is today.
There is no better example than the fact that under the Police Service Act, senior officers who age out must rely on “extensions” from Cabinet should they wish to continue to serve. Cabinet is also in the business of buying out leave and buying out contracts. Government MPs can effectively veto candidates even for acting posts.
Such matters may seem purely administrative but they have practical implications.
Politicians have a natural interest in national security. But it is a matter of degree.
It should be for independent bodies like the PSC to work out such basic matters such as retirement for officers.