CLOSE to 100 police officers are calling on the Police Service Commission (PSC) to look into Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher’s handling of a recent promotion exercise.
On Saturday, attorneys representing the 93 constables complained about the commissioner’s conduct and that of the Promotion Advisory Board in the 2023 promotion exercise for the rank of corporal.
“The PSC is empowered to make appointments on promotion and to confirm appointments and also, terminate the services of the Commissioner or a Deputy Commissioner of Police [after giving her an opportunity to be heard] on several grounds,” attorneys Jagdeo Singh, Karina Singh and Leon Kalicharan said in their letter to the PSC’s chairman. The PSC is led by retired judge Judith Jones.
They say they have exhausted the pre-action process and all their enquiries on the promotions fiasco which saw some 900 officers being elevated to the rank of corporals and resulted in an apology by Harewood-Christopher who also called for an audit of the published merit list, have gone unanswered by the top cop.
“Unfortunately, this flagrant disregard was consistent with the COP’s state of indifference towards our clients and their rights and interests as members of the TTPS.
“It was at this stage, our clients’ disappointment plateaued and had now evolved to a feeling of hopelessness and capitulation,” the attorneys said in their letter.
In December, some 109 constables received permission from the High Court to pursue a claim against the Promotions Advisory Board (PAB) to give them their ratings after the PAB repeatedly failed to respond to pre-action letters sent on their behalf by their attorneys. Some of the officers were on the list as far back as 2009.
In their letter to the PSC, the attorneys said the history of their legal issues over the process, revealed “the unbridled misuse and mishandling of powers by the executive of the TTPS, the central and ultimate authority being the COP.
“We therefore respectfully consider the supervisory and regulatory nature of the commission is now triggered in the interest of restoring some measure of integrity and accountability of a constitutional functionary in the general public interest and amongst the TTPS membership.”
The attorneys said it was now “untenable” for their clients to “continually subject themselves to a process and system which has consistently failed and deprived them of a procedurally fair and transparent process.”
“It is therefore our respectful view that in light of the plague of discrepancies contained in the merit list and the promotion list [subsequently effected], is patently compromised.”
“...We find it necessary to bring these important matters to the urgent attention of the commission for their urgent action and/or response and more specifically, it calls for an investigation and the proportionate action on this long-standing current fiasco in which resolution seems to be protracted indefinitely.”
The letter said the constables were now frustrated having lost all confidence in the process having subjected themselves to “what ought to have been a fair and transparent process having regard to the previous prevailing challenges and failures of the COP and PAB.
“ It is unfortunate as our clients are now catapulted further into the abyss of impropriety led by the executive of the TTPS, chiefly the COP and have now wandered into the unlawful.
“...“We therefore respectfully consider the supervisory and regulatory nature of the commission is now triggered in the interest of restoring some measure of integrity and accountability of a constitutional functionary in the general public interest and amongst the TTPS membership. Our clients remain hopeful in the commission’s swift action in restoring trust and confidence in the management and operations of the TTPS.”
Last week, the officers received their individual scores but realised that those with higher marks were bypassed while those with lower marks were promoted.
The letter said the PAB is required to sit at least every three months to consider promotions but this was not done before some of them were invited to the PAB interviews in September 2023, a decade after they were successful in their examinations.
In March 2023, a revised list of 2,342 constables eligible for promotion was published, interviews were done in April and a constitutional motion on behalf of 388 police officers, challenging the unreasonable delay by the PAB to interview them and to interview some of them for the rank of sergeant and other ranks in the second division. Among the 388 were the 109 officers who have filed the judicial review claim.
The lawsuit said when the merit list was published in September and some 900 constables were promoted to corporal, individual ratings were not provided although an assurance was given in October that they would be as soon as they were available.
In November, Harewood-Christopher sent a memorandum to DCP Administration Ramnarine Samaroo about a “revision to the 2023 merit list” because of inaccuracies and a bulletin from the Police Service Social and Welfare Association which called on the commissioner to address the implications on its membership.
In the memo, Ramnarine was asked to identify the officers erroneously promoted, state the anticipated impact on second division officers when a revised merit list is published and plan to cushion to anticipated impact in the fallout.
On December 6, Harewood-Christopher apologised in a media release for “anomalies in the allocation of marks” in the promotion exercise, advising she had received a report which was being reviewed to determine the “the nature, source, and extent, of any possible anomalies.”
“I understand and appreciate the far-reaching implication of the concerns raised, not just for the affected ranks, but for all officers of the TTPS and confidence in our promotion processes going forward. In the circumstances, I wish to sincerely apologise for this unfortunate incident, and for the adverse impacts it would have on the affected officers,” she said.