Ex-PNM candidate tells committee: Change process for appointing CoP

Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher. - File photo
Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher. - File photo

A FORMER PNM candidate has called for the process for appointing a police commissioner to be changed in a revised Constitution.

Melissa James-Guy was selected as the party’s candidate to contest the former Plymouth/Golden Lane electoral district in the January 2021 Tobago House of Assembly elections.

She believes the current process is too complicated.

“I am of the belief that the current process for the appointment of a Police Commissioner is complex, convoluted and most likely costly and it also does not allow for the full confidence of the population,” she said.

James-Guy spoke on April 22 at a public consultation on constitutional reform at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex, Tobago.

The event was hosted by the National Advisory Committee on Constitutional Reform, chaired by former speaker and attorney Barendra Sinanan.

It held its first consultation in Tobago on April 11 at the Belle Garden Multipurpose Facility.

The Government set up the committee in January to initiative, consult and guide a national debate towards a package of ideas and opinions to be distilled into a working document for a Constitution conference in June.

On the process of appointing a top cop, James-Guy said the Police Service Commission (PSC) could be seen as a rubber stamp.

“As the current process goes, the commission has to send the nominations to the President. It has to come down from her to the House of Representatives. Parliament has to be convened for a debate to happen, whether it’s before a substantive appointment or even for an acting appointment.

“And because of our style of governance, which is pretty much outdated, where we have (majority rule), it could pretty much be considered political interference, to some extent, depending on how the entire process goes.”

She recommended that the commission “or, if we decide to do away with service commissions on a whole after this entire process, whichever body that responsibility is vested in, that they should be the final decision-makers with regard to who will be appointed as police commissioner.”

James-Guy also suggested that: “We leave some space for the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to just be able to send a non-objection.

“And if they do object, it must be substantiated with evidence and good reasoning as to why they have an objection to this nomination or to this appointment.”

She said the reasons for an objection may or may not be considered by the commission or new body.

“But at the end of the day, we have to get rid of that bureaucratic, convoluted process where it allows for political interference, if we have to be honest.”

James-Guy said the existing process is “definitely not auguring well for us as a society where we are riddled with crime.

“And I think we have to deal with it from the root, and the appointment of our commissioner of police is definitely a good place for us to start to ensure that we separate the powers of the State and the police service.”

In the meantime, the PSC is inviting applications for the post of CoP. In an ad published in the April 11 edition of the Newsday, the PSC said it is “seeking to appoint a suitably qualified TT national to the office of Commissioner of Police in the TT Police Service.”

The commission said the successful applicant will be required to manage the financial resources of the police, “particularly as it relates to goods and services.”

The deadline for applications is 4 pm on May 3.

Parliament confirmed Erla Harewood-Christopher in the post on February 3, 2023 and later extended her term by a year.


"Ex-PNM candidate tells committee: Change process for appointing CoP"

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