Judge: Police Commissioner must provide list of vacation leave buy-out

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher – File photo by Lincoln Holder

A HIGH Court judge has ordered the Commissioner of Police to provide ACP Wendell Lucas with a list of the number of police officers whose vacation leave was bought out for the last two decades.

Justice Frank Seepersad made the order on January 16.

Lucas asked for the information for his intended lawsuit against a talk show host over comments about him in July 2023.

Lucas, head of the white-collar crime bureau, said after hearing what was said about him on the radio programme, he felt depressed and embarrassed and immediately instructed his attorneys to request the information from the police service.

He wants to know the number of police officers whose leave was bought out by the commissioner, the Police Service Commission or the Cabinet from 2003 to 2023.

When he requested the information in August, he said he received a response asking until October 13, 2023, to provide it. However, at a hearing in October, attorneys for the commissioner said the information would be provided since the request was approved and would have attempted to do so by December 15.

ACP Wendell Lucas – File photo by Jeff K Mayers

At Tuesday’s hearing, they asked for an additional two months.

Seepersad said significant time had elapsed and he was not minded to keep the matter on his court list.

However, he gave the commissioner 60 days to provide the information.

“It is a bit troubling that this matter is taking this long… At the end of the day, this is taxpayers’ funds being utilised when leave is bought out.

“One would expect at the end of the day there would be a degree of administrative accountability and effective record keeping,” the judge said as he urged the police service to adopt a more proactive approach and set priorities since this case demonstrated a “disturbing lack of administrative protocols.”

“Because of the escalating crime situation, from time to time, you see notices that all officers are recalled from leave to address the scourge of crime.

“However, when leave is not utilised it builds up and it is important to understand, holistically, what is happening to ensure there is a fair and consistent policy approach on how leave is treated within the police service.”

In December, Lucas was nominated for the post of deputy commissioner.