Hunt is on for next top cop

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Police Administration Building, Port of Spain. File photo/Jeff Mayers

ARE you interested in becoming the country’s next Police Commissioner? If so, you have until the end of June at 4 pm to apply for the position.

In a newspaper ad on Tuesday, the Police Service Commission (PSC) gave details for applying and said the deadline is June 30.

The two major requirements are a master’s degree in law, criminology, police service management and criminal justice with at least 15 years’ experience of increasing responsibility in law enforcement.

This is the first advertisement for the post of top cop since the PSC collapsed last year after the completion of the selection process. In January the PSC said it would begin a new process after the old board collapsed amidst mounting pressure for members to resign after the mishandling of a completed merit list.

The previous list, compiled by the former PSC led by chairman Bliss Seepersad, was submitted to President Paula-Mae Weekes on August 11, 2021 and immediately withdrawn. The withdrawal triggered calls for government members to resign, changed the laws to select a police commissioner and deputies and a failed attempt by the Opposition to impeach the President.

Former police commissioner Gary Griffith has said he will reapply, although the powers that be have “shifted the goal post.” Griffith, who is now the political leader of the National Transformation Alliance (NTA), said he would again top the list and doubted anyone could best him.

“I’ll do it and I will top it again. It will be one of two things: either the PSC will try to find a way to prevent me from applying, because once I apply, I will always come first.

“There have been three exams that have taken place, first by KPMG, where I topped the merit list by a mile. Then the PSC at that time, led by Dr. Gomes, they decided to have their own exams, and I still came first. And then after we had the last PSC, when they did the exams, again, I got 93 per cent. And the closest police officer got 75 odd per cent, so almost 20 per cent I won by.”

He added that if he followed through on the application the same thing would happen again. Griffith said there was no way the process couldbe rigged that would allow his closest competitor, who scored 20 per cent less than him last time, to top the list.

“I could just keep reapplying and they will just keep shifting the goalposts and altering the merit list to ensure that Mr (McDonald) Jacob remains as acting Commissioner of Police, which it seems that this is what they want.”

The last time the post was advertised, Griffith was one of seven applicants shortlisted. They included acting Deputy Commissioners of Police Erla Christopher and Wendell Williams; Assistant Commissioners of Police Yusuff Gaffar and Andre Norton; Lt Col Sheldon Ramnanan, a former chief legal officer of the Defence Force; and Jason Francis, senior policy adviser at the UN’s Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Last week the PSC issued a media release on its Increasing Responsibility in Law Enforcement policy. The policy, it said, will be used to assess applicants’ experience, as stipulated by the legal notice No 219 of 2015, as amended by Legal Notices No 339 of 2019 and 277 of 2021 and amended by 278 of 2022.

The criterion of “increasing responsibility” will look at how contenders performed their general duties, beginning at managing and supervisingfront-line staff, middle management, senior management and executive.

The new process does not remove the veto power of Parliament in selecting the Police Commissioner.

Responding to this, Griffith said “We have a very flawed constitution, where a politician, one politician could make the decision to select the Commissioner of Police.

“And I’m not in any way applying this to this Prime Minister, but just say we have a situation where we have a Prime Minister who is being heavily investigated by a Commissioner of Police. That Prime Minister could easily direct his ministers and members of his Cabinet to change the law to remove the merit list so that a person will not sit as a commissioner of police.

“That is creeping signs of dictatorship.”