?The circumstances that have led to a fourth extension of the term of office of James Philbert as Acting Commissioner of Police are quite regrettable.
The fact that the country's chief law enforcement officer should be put in this situation is a sad commentary on our political administrators and the Police Service Commission (PSC). It suggests an absence of effective planning and coordination with respect to one of the most vital positions in the national apparatus. Indeed, it seems to indicate diffidence and apathy by the relevant authorities with respect to a crucial assignment. It does nothing for the campaign against crime and for the stability of the police service and the country, in general, to have such an untenable state of affairs in the upper stratum of our protective structure. None of this, of course, is a slur on Mr Philbert, who must be commended for his duty to his nation and his willingness to serve a term that has been repeatedly extended.
We thank him for availing himself to head the police service while the powers-that-be struggle to resolve an unseemly state of affairs. The reality is that Mr Philbert was asked to provide further national service because orderly transition arrangements were not put in place. It is of little comfort–not to mention, wholly disingenuous–to point to the fact that the country was in a general election setting in the run-up to the expiry of Mr Philbert's third extended term of office. Surely, in dissolving Parliament and taking the nation to the polls, the then-political administrators would have been aware that the police chief was nearing the end of his third stint of "extra" time. Installing a Commissioner of Police in a country with an acknowledged crime problem ought to have been a priority item before parliamentary affairs were halted for two months. Mr Philbert had been asked to report to additional duty on the previous three occasions as a result of political and legislative gridlock and a measure of grandstanding in high office.
This disquieting sequence of events is still fresh in many people's minds.
The Police Service Commission may well plead not guilty on the issue, but we question the timeliness of its official report, especially considering the bureaucratic hurdles that must be surmounted before a letter of appointment can be issued. Surely, the PSC was afforded sufficient time to dutifully carry out its professional search. There have been two exhaustive, costly and time-consuming head-hunting exercises to find a suitably qualified person to head our constabulary. Yet Trinidad and Tobago is still to benefit from those protracted, high-profile exercises. Our grouse with respect to the tardiness of the authorities is separate and apart from our views on the nomination of a foreign national for the position which was the subject of an editorial comment on Monday. We now look forward to the authorities being prepared to install a new police commissioner in time to undertake his duties from October 1, the date on which Mr Philbert should be finally able to earn his well-deserved retirement.
We will be closely following the parliamentary exercise which begins on Friday in the House of Representatives on the selection of a successor to the outgoing commissioner. We hope there is consensus among stakeholders, but, even failing that, there must be no further hitches in the process of recruiting an officer to lead the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service. The logjam and official lethargy have combined for too long to derail the procedure, to the detriment of a police unit that is anxiously looking forward to leadership and a nation that sorely wants an end to the scourge of crime.