Justice Judith Jones –
THERE will be a new selection process for the office of the Commissioner of Police.
As a result, a new list of contenders to the top cop position will be generated after the process is completed to be sent to the President for a notification to be sent to the Parliament for approval.
“The Police Service Commission wishes to inform that, subsequent to the appointment of its new members on November 16, 2021, it considered the status of the outcome of the 2021 selection process for the office of Commissioner of Police,” the statement said.
After months of speculation, the PSC’s statement confirmed that the previous list compiled by the former PSC was submitted to President Paula-Mae Weekes on August 11, 2021, by ex-PSC chairman Bliss Seepersad, and immediately withdrawn, will no longer be used.
In December, PSC’s chairman retired Justice Judith Jones confirmed to Newsday the commission was seeking legal advice on if it could discard the August 2021 merit list and begin the selection process for a police commissioner all over again.
On Thursday it said, “The commission considered all the facts in the matter and legal advice received and decided that no further action will be taken with respect to the 2021 selection process for the office of Commissioner of Police.
“Accordingly, the commission will commence a new selection process in accordance with the process and procedures outlined in the applicable law currently enacted and governing the process for compiling the list of nominees to comprise an order-of merit list for the office of Commissioner of Police.”
It cited the applicable law to enable it to discard the former list and hold a new selection process.
“The applicable law being: Legal Notice No. 277 of 2021 The Commissioner of Police and Deputy Commissioner of Police (Selection Process) (No. 2) Order, 2021 as amended by Legal Notice No. 278 of 2021 The Commissioner of Police and Deputy Commissioner of Police (Selection Process) (No. 2) (Amendment) Order, 2021 made pursuant to the provisions of Section 123 (3) and (4) of the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago,” the statement cited.
The previous Seepersad-led commission resigned last year amidst an imbroglio involving the suspension of former police commissioner Gary Griffith. In a public statement, Weekes confirmed the list had been withdrawn the same day it was submitted to her. No reason was given for this.
In her public statement, Weekes said when the former list was withdrawn there was none for her to send to the Parliament.
“To date, no other list has since been submitted. The OTP (Office of the President) has been advised that ‘the recruitment and selection process for the Office of Commissioner of Police has not yet been completed.’” she said in her statement in October.
The process for the selection of a new police commissioner was stalled until Parliament accepted Legal Notice 277 of 2021.
This was done last month when the notice, which instructed the PSC to scrap the previous merit list and restart the process for a new one, was passed. The Parliament also confirmed the appointment of McDonald Jacob as the acting top cop as the law now only allows serving police officers to act as commissioner as opposed to contract officers two months after TT was without a commissioner or substantive acting one.
Griffith at the time claimed Government drafted Legal Notice 277, in an attempt to prevent the merit list from reaching Parliament.
The notice replaced two previous notices – Legal Notice 183 of 2021 and Legal Notice 103 of 2009.
This became necessary after Justice Nadia Kangaloo ruled the two pieces of subsidiary legislation, regarding the acting appointment of a commissioner of police, were void and unconstitutional. As a result of the ruling, Griffith’s appointment and that of Jacob, who held on when the former was suspended, was deemed void because neither appointment was approved by the Parliament.
Griffith had repeatedly called on the Jones-led PSC to submit the August 2021 merit list to the President, said to abort that list will be “blatant cowardice on the part of the Government.”
He said there was absolutely no reason, or excuse, to have the list scrapped and that list would have shown that he was in a favourable position with an approval rating from the public higher than his competitors.
The selection process mandates the PSC to invite applications for the position in two daily newspapers on three days a week. From the applications, it must select the most suitable candidates for assessment and ensure they are subjected to security and professional vetting.
It also has to conduct the assessment paying regard to the candidates’ qualification, experience, medical history and security and professional vetting. After taking into account all the information on the candidates it will then generate a merit list, indicating the highest graded candidate followed by other candidates in descending order of merit. The PSC will have to select the highest graded candidate and submit that name to the President to send to the Parliament for approval. If the House does not approve the highest graded candidate, nominations in order of merit will have to be sent to the House.