Finding a new Commissioner of Police is not merely about recruiting the man with the right skills-set and experience, and if that individual be a foreigner then so be it. A Commissioner of Police is one of the principal officers of the State, at the helm of the main institution of national security. Having a national in that position is about the society demonstrating the capacity to govern itself 48 years after having achieved political independence. If the argument is that there is no one within the service with the capacity to successfully perform the job of commissioner, that would be an indictment not only on the senior officers in the service but on the political and administrative managers of the service over the period 1962 to the present.
So too if there is no one with the capacity to be CoP it will be a mark of planning and foresight deficiency on succeeding Police Service Commission, the senior officers and second division associations. Not without responsibility is the wider society, which in different ways would have allowed the service to grow-up without nurturing the kinds of individuals to effectively manage the Police Service at the very top. The media, the judiciary, the Law Association, the business community, the religious institutions, the labour movement, the political parties and every other institution of significance must also share in the responsibility if indeed we do not have an adequate leader in the Police Service. However, it is far from a proven fact that there are no officers amongst the ranks with the ability to effectively carry out the job of CoP, and this is distinct from the fact that the Police Service has performed badly in interdiction. But it cannot be that the entire responsibility for the criminal madness must hinge on the Police Service and the CoP.
The previous government did everything possible to have a foreigner installed in the job: the Prime Minister vetoed the recommendation of the Police Service Commission to have Stephen Williams appointed; the Government subsequently ensured that the recruitment criteria were reorganised to favour the selection of a foreigner. But then that was not surprising. The last administration not only had a fetish with foreign expertise, but seriously undermined local institutions and capacity as a rational for turning almost as a first response to "foreign." For its development model it observed countries such as Dubai and the Irish financial sector and attempted to import their development experience. Even with regard to managing the residence of the Prime Minister and the staff required, importation of butlers and maids was the preferred option. It may be considered uncharitable to observe that had the government been true to its belief in foreign talent, it would have outsourced the prime ministership, given that the local in the job was performing disastrously.
The argument of finding the talent by opening the field internationally to get the best qualified and most experienced person for the job is unfair and illogical as a means of recruiting for developing countries. Most assuredly, if the government, the private sector and the average citizen were to advertise abroad for every significant job available in the society and economy, the advertisements would attract applicants of greater experience and qualifications from the industrial world for obvious reasons relating to the stage of development and training. And this would surely be the case of any developing country of similar size and stage of development. It therefore cannot be that a country will seek to attract foreigners for jobs at the highest levels of the society and economy as a matter of course. The position of CoP has to do with the pride of a people as it holds significant symbolic importance; it is about making a statement to the national and inter- national community about the capacity of a nation to manage its internal affairs.
Sure enough, technological, administrative, scientific and forensic knowledge and information about policing are now global in the world of the 21st century and should be utilised whenever possible. Therefore this column is not advocating that T&T locks itself out of this international stream of knowledge and information. Rather, it is saying that the country can draw on the international experience and expertise. It is even useful to have highly qualified and experienced forensic technicians here to transfer the knowledge and know-how in the methods and practices of good policing. But it cannot be that the position of CoP be handed out to a foreigner without a serious loss of self-worth, pride and sovereignty. Moreover, the practice of bringing in foreign commissioners in other nations in the Caribbean to counter exploding criminal activity has not worked; not in Jamaica, not in Antigua, not in St Lucia. And that is so for a number of reasons. The first being that expecting some foreigner to fly in and cure the problems of crime is to misunderstand the nature and depth of the malady, crime being a result of the social problems of the society and is not going to be resolved by resorting to the solution that has been so common in post colonial societies: call back the colonising powers, they certainly know better than we do.
It is the same practice of disbelief in self which led the West Indies Cricket Board and establish- ment to have ignored 75 years of golden experience, during which time we produced teams of individuals of the highest class possible, and turn instead to groups of second-class Australian coaches simply because it is ingrained in our thinking that "foreign" means superior quality. This People's Partnership campaigned on the basis of self-sufficiency, committed itself to en- hancing local capacity and self-belief, therefore it would be going against all of that if it were to accept that a local is not up to the task of being CoP and so resort to bringing in a foreigner in this crucial position of law enforcement. It will be up to the Prime Minister and her Government to veto the recommendation and make it known that it is seeking a national for the job. This will give the Opposition the opportunity to tell the national community where it stands on this matter.