The People's Partnership has been batting a straight line since coming to power, gently tapping at each of the urgent issues coming its way with one eye on their campaign promises and the other fixed on the failings of the government they replaced in office. The one that's coming their way next is one that the PNM never
satisfactorily addressed, raising their political bat each time and
calling for a bye instead of managing the critical issues at stake in the selection of a new Commissioner of Police. For years now, instead of someone placed in a career defining role, with years before him to prove himself and execute on a real plan to manage the criminal activity in the country, T&T has instead enjoyed career officers in the twilight of their service, literally serving out their last months as policemen in the role.
Most recently, James Philbert had the dubious honour of having his retirement from the role of Acting Commissioner of Police extended three times while the government dithered with the business of selecting a CoP capable of not just occupying, but extending the role. The selection committee of the Police Service Commission has offered its merit list of candidates for the post of Commissioner and three deputy Commissioner, and two of the four top recommendations are Canadians. The top listed nominee, former Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer Neal Parker has already sparked ripples of dissension in the ranks of the Opposition and within the ranks of the police force.
"I will have to be convinced," said Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, "that there is good reason why, at this stage of our development, we would have to go abroad for a commissioner of police." President of the T&T Police Service Social and Welfare Association Emrol Bruce warned that there would be "some level of resistance" by its members to the selection of the Canadian Mountie and reported that the Police Retirees Association intended to ask the Prime Minister to use her power of veto on the appointment. There are two disturbing developments brewing here, both of which demand attention. The first of which is that the Police Service Commission, tasked with convening a selection committee and suitably empowered by intellect and resources to evaluate the available candidates, might well be facing the prospect of having its selections for the post overturned in Parliament.
While overturned isn't the best way of describing the process of sifting down the order of merit list that the committee produces for Parliament's consideration, the second guessing of a selection process that's supposed to call on the best minds available for the task needlessly calls into question the PSC's role in the selection of the Commissioner of Police. Stung by the PNM government's refusal to appoint its nominee Stephen Williams, and the leisurely pace that it adopted in restarting the selection process, PSC committee member Pastor Clive Dottin threatened, in 2009, to resign from the committee if the nominee for the post was declined again. Having deliberated at length on the available candidates, it would seem sensible for Parliament to accept the recommendations of the PSC and, acknowledging the issues that will arise in having foreign trained leadership, design a retention package for the prime nominee that will maximise knowledge transfer while providing senior resources tasked with cultural translation to bring the Canadians up to speed.
The second development which must be acknowledged is that through two selection procedures, the Police Service of Trinidad and Tobago has emerged as demonstrably behind the international curve in leadership capacity and that gap must be addressed decisively. Without leaders trained to the cutting edge of global standards, the Police Service will remain challenged in its efforts to match increasingly entrepreneurial criminals. These and other matters are likely to be part of the sitting of the Lower House on Friday and MPs should be prepared to bring to the debate suggestions and initiatives that will bring value to the business of improving the Police Service and driving its leadership capacity forward.