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Commissioners Drama - Tenure of Horrors

L-Garry Nelson,AUSBERT REGIS and DARWIN DOTTINWhen adversity strikes, people have often overlooked existing personal feelings in support of victims. Similarly, when institutional or organizational crises were looming or tenure was under imminent threat, members affected or likely to be affected, have often come together in solidarity.

It may have been for these reasons that it has been said that “...Unity is strength and that “...There is strength in numbers,” Philosophically and numerically, these are irrefutably true, but only to the extent that there was “...unity of purpose” and a collective resolve in moving toward finding solutions and reaching amicable agreements. However, where evil forces had been used to obliterate noble intentions; ... where divisiveness had replaced cohesiveness; ...and where antagonism was substituted for unity,” mere philosophical beliefs and numbers frequently bring “...disappointment, humiliation, despair and misery.” Incidents developed recently within the Police Services of “...St. Lucia; ...Grenada and Barbados, where Police Commissioners had been summarily removed from office, undeniably, speak to these truths.

DANGEROUS TREND

These developments marked a dangerous trend and may have serious implications for organizational command and control. More fundamentally, they are likely to impact negatively on personnel, inducing inter alia “...attitudinal change; ...indiscipline; low morale; ...low productivity; ...organizational instability and ineffectiveness. More importantly they are likely to have adverse effect upon “...public safety and public order.” The developments saw three distinguished professionals being relieved of their responsibilities. Although they may not have been seen as controversial as former Commissioner “...Randolph Burroughs [T&T] and/or Superintendent Renato Adams [Jamaica],” they were clearly “...men of integrity, courage and character.”

FALLIN ONE BY ONE

These occurrences, though not necessarily the result of their professional abilities, competencies and/or ethics, suggested that they may have “...outlived their usefulness and fell out of favor.” For instance, the recent experiences of Barbados Police Commissioner Darwin Dottin may very well support these contentions. It would seem that the environment, in which the Commissioners were required to function, may not have been consistent with their professional ethics and may have been inconsistent with administrative expectations. Those with little understanding of the nature of Police work, have often showed negligible appreciation for “...Independent Policing.” Thus, many, either for errancy or incompetency, had become vulnerable, and under environmental pressures, they seemed to be “...Falling One by One.” 

FIRST TO GO

First Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner to be pressured into resigning from office were expatriates Dwayne Gibbs and Jack Ewatski. The two officers troubles started before March 2012 and continued after the Police Service Commission (PSC) “...Performance Appraisals” reportedly gave them “...Negative Performance Reviews.” Both officers reportedly declared their appraisals “...flawed” and refused to sign them. As tension grew between the embattled officers and the PSC, they were reportedly forced into relinquishing their respective positions. Both resigned from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service on August 7, 2012” [Trinidad Guardian].

MODES OF REMOVAL

The British ensured that they had inserted several ways in which members of regional Police Services may be removed from office. The rest of the region, like Antigua and Barbuda, the Disciplinary Regulations stipulate “...Modes” in which serving members may be removed from office. For instance, Section 16 (3) [ANU] states “...The modes by which a Police officer may leave the Force are (a) ...On resignation dismissal or removal after disciplinary proceedings,” [Police Act, Chapter 330]. In some jurisdictions, there are provisions in which an officer may be called upon to “...Retire in the public interest.” Infrequently, for “...poor performance” [Delano Christopher/Gary Nelson: ANU: Aug. 28, 2008]; or...substantiating allegations of corruption or ...conduct likely to bring the office of Commissioner and the Police Service into disrepute.”

ACC MEMBERSHIP

Most disappointingly, may have been the deafening silence of a group of professional career officers within an organization called “...Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police (ACCP). Members of this august body were known to be deeply devoted, loyal and committed to the region’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and the internal safety and protection of their nationals, residents and visitors. Among another group comprising of “...Military and Law enforcement personnel, this group is called “...Security Chiefs.” Numerically, they are strong; ...philosophically, it appeared that they have lacked a spirit of unity; ...a sense of direction, judgment and resolve. Members appeared to have been cowed into a situation that may or may not have anything to do with their continued tenure. But they may have seen developments affecting those with membership in the “ ...ACCP” and seemingly lacked the intestinal fortitude in assisting the National Security Ministers in finding amicable solutions to their collective administrative, operational and resource problems, necessary to combat and/or control crimes, maintain the Rule of Law and National Security.”

RULE OF LAW

The structure of civil society, not only dictates that the various institutions, have mechanisms in place for their operations, but also an agency for “...Social Control.” Such agency is essential to peace and stability, orderliness and the “...Rule of Law.” These were not possible without an authority for the enforcement of Laws. Thus, where there was no “...Rule of Law,” there was chaos and lawlessness. From the perspective of “...Law Enforcement,” it is intended to examine developments within the region’s Police Services, specific to appointment of Commissioners and removal from office.” For the effective administration and efficient management of any Law enforcement agency, prudence dictates, inter alia, that such agency were to be allowed “...Autonomous Leadership’ ...competent, effective and decisive management; ...adequately resourced;  ...staffed with properly trained personnel possessing requisite knowledge, competencies and/or skill sets with understanding its Mission objectives and core values.” Consequently, every personnel were to be “...service-oriented and ethical professionals; ...highly disciplined; ...approachable; ...courteous and obliging. These are essential not only to the safety and protection of members of civil society, but also for the “...Rule of Law.”

POLICE AND POLITICS

It was the experience that environmental selectees fortuitously appointed without recommendations from the serving Commissioner, had failed to understand, appreciate and/or make clear distinctions between “...POL-I-CE and ...POL-I-TICS.” Formally, the latter was never part of “...Regional Police Training Manuals.” In a real world, however, habits are formed and cultures are developed. Invariably, people are carefully drawn in, while the docile and vulnerable, jumped to what seemed like orders and are engulfed and consumed. Thus, some were unable to differentiate the letters following “...I” in both words. Consequent upon their inability in making clear distinctions, many had become victims of their own folly and/or stupidity.

HAND PICKED COMMISSIONERS

Conversely, others acting in such capacity, through no fault of theirs, had been victimized-cast aside, sacked, ignored and/or overlooked, either primarily for reasons of “...victimization, insularity, cronyism and favoritism.” These often allow for the less efficient to be “...Hand-Picked” and placed in holes inconsistent with their shapes. Consequently, it was to be seen that the competent were replaced by the incompetent primarily for reasons of “...expediency or convenience.” Some became “...overly aggressive and oppressive to the citizenry and vindictive to subordinates. Those who appeared to have perched themselves upon pedestals had fallen from “...Political Grace.” Some were humiliated and removed from office under defined or invented terms, touted as “...In the interest of the public.” or “...Administrative Leave.”

APPOINTMENT AND TENURE

Researching the contentious issue of “...Appointment and Tenure,” Superintendent Albert M. P. Wade [RPFA&B]  referring to legal arguments of Senior Lecturer at the School of Law, University of Nairobi, Dr. Migai Akech, he notes “...Police duty is not to be the armament of the Executive.” Interestingly, he further posited “...Executive control of the Police is problematic, since it fuels perceptions of unfair policing” [RSS: Nov. 2008: p4].  Such may have been the manifestations when Attorney General Justin L. Simon QC [A&B], indicated similar issues over “...control and/or deployment” of the Police in the fiasco, surrounding “...prevention of the landing of “...APC’s” electricity generators at its Crabbs facility” [Dec. 2007]. Submissions for remedy were said to be under the considerations of the Privy Council” [May 23, 2013].

CONSULTATIONS WITH PRIME MINISTER

When Britain bestowed “Independence and/or Associated Statehood” upon regional States, those that were accorded such status had prepared Constitutions. In the Constitution, specific provisions were inserted to accommodate “...Appointments of Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners of Police.” The inserted Clause states “...Before the Police Service Commission (PSC) makes an appointment to the office of Commissioner of Police, or Deputy Commissioner, or a like post however designated, it shall ‘CONSULT’ with the Prime Minister.’

COMMISSIONER’S HORRORS

Then comes the determinant proviso “...A person shall not be appointed to such an office if the Prime Minister signifies to the Police Service Commission ‘HIS OBJECTION’ to the appointment of that person to the office in question” [ANU/CO 1981: Sec. 105: 3]. This Clause determines (i) ...Appointments; ...Duration of tenure or may bring about “...Commissioner’s Horrors.”  Similar provisions are contained in the Constitution Orders of Barbados [1966], Grenada [1974] and St. Lucia [1979]. Such provision necessarily means that no person shall be so appointed, and none may be removed, save and except such was sanctioned by a Prime Minister.

THE TERMINATORS

It was the experience that whenever the PSC replaced the “...competent with the incompetent, the loyal and committed personnel, the agency and citizenry had suffered. Ultimately, the incompetent were found waning and they too were humiliated and discarded. Invariably, it was the concurring actions of “...marionette members” on the region’s Police Services Commission, that had placed them in the role of “...Terminators” for a “...directorate” clearly not in tune with that which makes effective Policing.” Consequently, the dicta of eminent British jurist Lord Denning may provide lessons to those with little understanding and/or no appreciation of the nature of Police work, accompanying dangers and the challenges faced by Law enforcement administrators. He posited “...The cause of the effectiveness lies within the system and the framework in which the police have to operate” [2QB: 118: 1068].

INDEPENDENT OF EXECUTIVE

In the case “...Regina v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, Blackburn ex-parte” [1968], failed attempts to manipulate the office of Commissioner Raymond Blackburn into a situation, resulted in his sacking. He promptly sought the protection of the British Courts. In the historic ruling the dicta of Lord Denning, Master of the Roll were most profound. It states (i) “ ...The office of Commissioner within the Metropolis dates back to 1829 when Sir Robert Peel introduced his disciplined force; (ii) ...The Commissioner was specially appointed to administer the Police force; (iii) ...He should, and is independent of the Executive; (iv) ...He is not subject to the orders of the Secretary of State; (v) ...He must decide whether or not suspected persons are to be prosecuted; (vi) ...Save of the Law itself, no Minister of the Crown can tell him that he must, or must not prosecute this man or that one; (vii) ...Nor can any Police authority tell him so; (viii) ...He is answerable to the Law and the Law alone” [2QB].

RANDOLPH BURROUGHS ERA

Former Commissioner Randolph Urich Burroughs, despite a “...checkered tenure,” may have been guided by this ruling [T&T: 1978-1987]. Since that era, few regional Commissioners may credit themselves with the autonomy he enjoyed. Burroughs was said to have struck fear in the hearts of “...criminals equally as much as he had induced in the hearts of public officials.” The political directorate appeared not to have intervened in the day-to-day operations of the Police Service. From a crime perspective, research showed that Commissioner Burroughs “...Led one of the most notorious groups called the Flying Squad; ...a group of Police officers who virtually operated as a Law unto themselves and answerable to no one” [Tobago Today: Feb.3, 2013]. With escalating crime within that jurisdiction, today, the nation mourns his loss [Oct. 9, 1996].

WRIGHT GEORGE/DURANT ERA

While former Commissioners Wright F. George [Antigua &Barbuda] and Orville Durant [Barbados] had not driven fear in the hearts of past administrators, they had, nonetheless, drawn demarcation lines between “ ...Politics and Police.” The former had refused to publish an appointment of Superintendent he had not recommended for elevation, forcing then Prime Minister Sir Vere C. Bird to back-off. The latter held the “...bull by the horn” and armed crime fighters and frontline officers to the chagrin of the Political directorate. These Commissioners had the support of the rank and file; ...knew that which had to be done and pursued their objectives with a sense of purpose, courage and decisiveness. They had enjoyed autonomy and earned their respect, while those in whom confidence was reposed appeared to have reached the level of professional competence, public officers without Law enforcement training and/or experience were said to be “...running things” [Jamaicans].

THE RAIN DANCE

Former Jamaican Commissioner Francis A. Forbes had cautioned about performing what he had described as the “...Political Rain Dance.” The illustrious retiree who opted for early retirement [1996-2005], may have seen others “...Dancing to Rainy Tunes,” missed a beat, ending their dance. It was the experience that many Commissioners, Deputies and/or prospective successors within regional Police Services, possessing the requisite qualifications, experience and competencies had been affected by administrations prone to manipulation. Some had become prey to their docility while others had fallen victims to their own folly and stupidity.”

SIR ROBERT PEEL

When British Home Secretary, Sir Robert Peel sought to modernize the Metropolitan Police in 1829, appointment to head of this agency had been given the designation “ ...Chief Constable.” As policing evolved, the designation was changed to “...Chief of Police” and subsequently to “...Commissioner of Police.” Several nations across the globe had developed their Law enforcement agencies off the British model. Many have also used the designation at different levels. However, it matters not the designation/s, persons appointed to lead and manage those agencies were to be chosen on merit-based criteria. Within the region, however, this appeared not to have been a practice of consistency and has become problematic for some administrations and “...hand-picked Commissioners,” bringing about their demise. It appears that learning is still in progress. 

REPOSING CONFIDENCE

The tenure of Commissioner has always been a contentious issue. While office holders should enjoy some degree of certainty, independence and autonomy, there is no security. The British knew that whoever was elected to conduct governmental affairs, such administration would need the full cooperation, not just of its members, but primarily of those appointed to the office of Commissioner. This was necessary so that administrators may “...Repose Confidence,” not only in their professional abilities, but also their loyalty and continued tenure. It was the knowledge that such appointment often has “...hidden dangers.” These were known to have manifested themselves, threatening both “...confidence and tenure.” Appointees may marvel not of the impending consequences. It was also the knowledge that when confidence waned, there is mistrust; ...when relations become strained, there is dissatisfaction. These appeared to have manifested themselves in the Police Services of “...St. Lucia, Grenada and Barbados.”

PHYLOSOPHICAL APPROACHES

Though the sacked Commissioners may have been known for their “...individuality and independence of mind, their philosophical approaches to their responsibilities and organizational commitment, speak unquestionably to their “...unswerving loyalty, commitment and devotion to duty.” In a particular ruling by Her Ladyship Justice Rosalyn E. Wilkinson, it speaks to “...One stroke of the Pen” that saw the career of former St. Lucian Commissioner Ausbert Regis ended” [Regis v Attorney General: SLUHCV 0497/2010]. He had prevailed in the Judgment. The Court had exposed the high-handedness of Cabinet members, supposedly of intellect and “...LEGAL” knowledge with the word “...Honourable” prefixing both their names and portfolioed responsibilities. Additionally, the Court had also exposed the insensitivity in a Police Service Commission (PSC), seemingly with a mind programmed to function in a “...rubber stamp mode” to the detriment of honest men.

DUBIOUS DECISION

The Courts, the bastion of hope, not only gave acute considerations to the issues at Bar, but also dispensed justice as the evidence and reasoning dictates. In the administration of justice, there is something more fundamental than merely adducing evidence for the defence. Courts have not only looked for “...rationality, reasonability and justification, but also evidence of “...ulterior motive and/or acrimonious actions.” Invariably, distinguished Justices have found evidence of both. The humiliating experiences” of former St. Lucian Police Commissioner Ausbert Regis, may support such findings. In the peculiar case, the Claimant was clandestinely removed from office, by a “...Dubious Decision” and under the guise of an official transfer.

THE SINISTER PLOT

There was no doubt that the Cabinet had lost confidence in the administration of the Claimant. Thus, there had to be a way of ousting him with minimal injuries to his ego and/or pride. Reasonable suspicions may have been formed that a “...Sinister Plot” involving the “...Cabinet and the PSC.” The invention was a post designated “...Director of Special Initiatives (DSI0)... The plot was apparently hatched shortly after a Cabinet meeting in which the Claimant participated in discussions on approaches to the crime situation. The Claimant saw the decision as “...unlawful and against the “...Principles of Natural Justice and sought legal redress in the St. Lucia Supreme Court [January 5, 2011]."

MOCKERY OF INTELLECT

For the novelty of a position of representing Attorneys General, some legal practitioners seemed inclined in abandoning professional principles. Such behaviors were often seen as bordering behaviors exhibited by the biblical character Judas. Additionally, it might be seen that even where “...ignorance was not bliss,” legal practitioners were prepared to make “...Mockery of their Intellect.” This may have been seen when defence attorney sought vainly to convince the Court that “...FACTUALLY” the Claimant; (i) ...Head of the Police Service and (ii) ...Member of the National Security,” was a “...THREAT.” The preposterous submissions that the Claimant posed a threat to National Security, was based on reports of “...Rising Crime.”

DEADLY PEN STROKE

Frequently when crime spiraled out of control, blame had to be apportioned on a “, scapegoat.” The focus of attention was usually placed on both the “...Minister with responsibility for the Police and the Police Commissioner.” Invariably, while the Minister was protected by club members (Cabinet) the ...Commissioner was left in the lurch. Her Ladyship Justice Rosalyn E. Wilkinson, documenting the Court’s observations, wrote “...Through the stroke of the ‘PSC’s PEN,’ the Claimant’s career was ending. The Court concluded that “...There was nothing particularly illuminating in the Cabinet Minutes, the PSC Minutes ...to suggest that the Claimant was a ‘THREAT’ to National Security.

JUDICIAL NOTICE

Taking “...Judicial Notice” of the Claimant’s “...Performance Appraisal Reports,” observing that, “...Between the two (2) Performances Appraisals laid before the Court, the Claimant was rated as ...hardworking; ...committed to the task; ...conscientious and recommended for promotions.” The Court was of the view and emphatically states “...There were no complaints from anyone about the Claimant’s performance as Commissioner of Police and also finds that the Defendant had “...failed on the defence of National Security, ruling that the Claimant ought to have been given a hearing before the Police Service Commission. Finally, Her Ladyship wrote “...The decision to transfer and appoint the Claimant as Director of Special Initiatives (DSI) is null and void” [Paras.81, 82 &83].

SECURITY OF TENURE

Confirming that there was no such thing as “...Security of Tenure,” on June 17, 2013, Barbados Police Commissioner Darwin Dottin was placed on instantaneous “...Administrative Leave.” Though Dottin was no chicken, he was stripped of the “...feathers in his cap” by the Police Service Commission (PSC). With all the “T’s crossed and the “...Dots In,” Darwin humiliating one-day push “...Out” of office may have been his first and worst “...Daymare.” Except moving to restore pride, reputation and image, or testing the legitimacy of the actions of the PSC, he need not complain immediately since he has been placed on “...Administrative Leave.” He reserves the right to “...entitlements to monthly and/or retirement benefits.” 

RAPED OF SENSES

The Barbadian Police Commissioner was known for his “...frankness and adamancy.” Rightly or wrongly, these traits were invariably interpreted as arrogance. However, his tenure appeared to have been overshadowed by “...expressional controversies.” Most notably, may have been three highly publicized “...Rape Cases” involving nationals of the United Kingdom and a 47 year-old Barbadian. Arrested and charged with a crime in which credible evidence was woefully lacking. Apart from an alleged “...coerced confession,” there was no “...nexus” to the crime, yet Dottin maintained the existence of a preponderance of evidence. The rape victims had expressed adamancy that the accused was innocent. There was no DNA evidence and even the conduct of an identification parade was unsuccessful. Dottin, seemingly “...Raped of his Senses,” was adamant that the accused was the perpetrator.

DRAMATIC TURN OF EVENTS

Remanded to the penal institution for nearly two years, in a “...Dramatic Turn of Events,” taking umbrage with Dottin’s assertions, the two victims teamed up with another rape victim and reportedly provided legal assistance for the accused’ defence. Disputing the seemingly preposterous assertions, the trio pleaded the accused innocence and successfully fought for his release. Dottin’s credibility was shattered, yet he maintained his adamancy. The victims, Barbadian public and British pressures were brought to bear, not only upon the embattled Commissioner, but also upon the Freundel Stuart administration. Then came Dottin’s most disappointing moment when the Police Service Commission (PSC) forced him on leave, humiliating him with “...One day’s notice [Nation News.Com].

COMMISSIONERS CHESS MATCH

Sitting Grenadian administrations, as been evidenced in other regional administrations, they had shifted Commissioners similar to moves obtained in the game of “...Chess.” For instance, former Commissioner Wilan Thompson was recalled from retirement and appointed Deputy Commissioner under the Tilman Thomas administration in September 2011. By then he was the preferred choice to a contractually appointed Commissioner James Clarkson. In a news story in the “...New Today” newspaper, it states “...With the July 2008 victory at the polls an NDC Government, had taken a decision to bring back Thompson into the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) as a possible replacement” for the previously contractually hired Clarkson [GTN: 2008].

EXPOSURE OR DISPOSAL

In respect to the Keith Mitchell administration, Commissioner Thompson was availed of more days than his counter-parts “...Regis and Dottin.” He must have known that Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell had reposed little or no confidence in his administration. Following the February 19, 2013 elections, private/official meeting was reportedly held with Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, who accused Thompson of leaking information of that meeting to the public. Moving swiftly either to dispel rumors or expose Thompson to public ridicule or to dispose of his services, a Press Release from his office states, “...I posed some questions of concerns and decisions that were taken, which clearly demonstrate some measure of political activities; ...I never indicated to him that I would not want him to continue as Commissioner of Police” [GTCRADIO]. Thompson was never under illusions as to the motivation behind the Release. He knew that the die was cast; ...his tenure was under threat and his days as Commissioner were numbered. On March 8, 2013, Thompson was sacked and replaced by another retired Commissioner Winston James. The game of Chess was over with an acrimonious shift, as effective and decisive to that which had removed the embattled former Prime Minister Tilman Thomas from governance.

CONCLUSION

It was also the knowledge that other than their “...numerical strength,” selectees influenced by the environment and being bearers of bad news, were found to be incompetent and virtually useless to many agencies.  Situations like these had often “...dampen spirit; ...kill morale; ...retard progress, professional growth and development of the loyal and committed.” Additionally, these had impacted public perceptions, trust and confidence, while the adverse effects were seen through “...deteriorating force discipline; ...poor performance; ...low productivity, persistently displaying antagonistic or hostile attitude toward the administration and the public.” Consequently, these “... breed contempt; ...ferment disaffection among personnel, thereby making administration difficult. It was also the experience, that Commissioners who had declared their independence, thereby exercising autonomy over their agencies, their “...Tenure was seen to be full of “...Drama and Horrors.

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2 Comments In This Article   

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Too much outside interferences

#2 Dig It » 2013-06-25 09:13

RP, a very informative article! Sadly, they are dedicated and competent law enforcement officials out there in the region that become casualties of the politricks that come with the job. What's the purpose of having 'tenure' when you are constantly bombarded with the politricks? Fighting crime should always be about protecting interests of citizens and not egotiscal and partisan politicians, who used-and-abused commissioners. Ask Gary Nelson! When you failed to do their "bidding" you are asked to resign or fired. Antigua and the British-inherited islands must rid the commisdioners from 'influences' so they could be more independent!
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Gary Nelson

#1 skyewill » 2013-06-25 07:27

This guy was serious and really wanted to do a great job. He discovered the UNTOUCHABLES but no good intentions could touch them in a system that protect and reward crime.
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skyewill

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