The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Ig­natius Bel­rose

From time im­memo­rial pro­mo­tion has been a source of com­plaint within the Royal Saint Lu­cia Po­lice Force. It has been the foun­da­tion of dis­sat­is­fac­tion, frus­tra­tion, de­mo­ti­va­tion, ap­a­thy, res­ig­na­tion, early re­tire­ment and so on.

Claims of un­fair­ness, bla­tant dis­crim­i­na­tion and fa­voritism, vic­tim­iza­tion and so forth have been lim­it­less. In all, the sit­u­a­tion has been so bad that a most re­li­able source in the ser­vice said that, to the best of his judge­ment, the best and most com­pe­tent po­lice of­fi­cers with whom he worked took pre­ma­ture re­tire­ment be­cause of pro­mo­tion frus­tra­tion and on dis­en­chant­ment.

My own re­search re­vealed that in an ef­fort to ad­dress those pro­mo­tion woes, around the late 1980s to early 90s, a process in­volv­ing an exam and in­ter­view was in­sti­tuted, but did not last long. Ac­cord­ing to my source, although this process was not per­fect, it was many times bet­ter than what ex­isted be­fore, de­scribed as “the stroke of a pen” or “pa­tron­age sys­tem”. In short, that means if you were liked by a se­nior of­fi­cer, or be­longed to a par­tic­u­lar club or you were pre­pared to kiss some butts, a rec­om­men­da­tion would go up to the chief and, more than likely, your name would be ‘in the bag’ for the next pro­mo­tions. Af­ter you got pro­moted you were then du­ty­bound to take this se­nior of­fi­cer who rec­om­mended you to a bar and spend your last dime on the most ex­pen­sive liquor.

How­ever, the well-in­tended pro­mo­tion se­lec­tion process was short-lived be­cause some of the liked ones, club mem­bers or butt-kissers could not pass. In fact, it is said that dur­ing that pe­riod there were of­fi­cers who passed the ex­ams with fly­ing colours two or three times but never got pro­moted. In­stead, those of­fi­cers had to swal­low the bit­ter pill of see­ing those who failed the ex­ams be­ing pro­moted and at­tain­ing high ranks within the or­ga­ni­za­tion. No won­der the RSLPF’s per­for­mance or non­per­for­mance is a never-end­ing source of public out­cry.

In re­cent times, a new at­tempt has been made to ame­lio­rate those pro­mo­tion woes by in­tro­duc­ing pro­mo­tion reg­u­la­tions but they in­clude:

A badly set exam, to the

ex­tent that of­fi­cers could not find a cor­rect an­swer amongst the four mul­ti­ple choice op­tions; and a com­pul­sory ques­tion (which car­ried a high mark) set on sex­ual of­fenses which un­doubt­edly would have af­forded a small group of of­fi­cers en­gaged in in­ves­ti­gat­ing this type of of­fense on a daily ba­sis an un­fair ad­van­tage. Could you imag­ine that for the last two ex­ams, the pass mark was set at a low 50%, or else the ma­jor­ity of per­sons would fail!

A du­bi­ous group ex­er­cise

which adds no value to the process other than an op­por­tu­nity to cheat be­cause if there are six of­fi­cers in a group and three examiners, each ex­am­iner is re­spon­si­ble for ob­serv­ing and scor­ing two per­sons. And if one ex­am­iner marks a per­son un­fairly too high or too low, the oth­ers can­not serve as checks and bal­ance.

A non­sen­si­cal in­ter­view

dur­ing which an of­fi­cer may have to prove his worth by an­swer­ing ‘What was the theme for po­lice week?’ or ‘What was the last po­lice ac­tiv­ity you at­tended?’

Over the last five or six years, this process, in­tended to cure some mis­chiefs, has ac­tu­ally cre­ated more strife, dis­cord, frus­tra­tion, anger and de-mo­ti­va­tion. With this cur­rent process, scores are more im­por­tant than valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence and job per­for­mance and com­mit­ment to the task. The re­sult has been ju­niors be­ing pro­moted to su­per­vise their se­niors who were their train­ers, su­per­vi­sors and men­tors. It has also re­sulted in se­nior con­sta­bles, cor­po­rals and sergeants who suc­ceed through the process be­ing on the re­serve list for five to six years. The lev­els of dis­con­tent, ap­a­thy and anger this could breed are ob­vi­ous. In a nut­shell, it seems that the RSLPF will never get pro­mo­tions right.

Now as if the pro­mo­tion woes high­lighted above were not enough, a new spin has been in­tro­duced in a cur­rent process. Hav­ing gone through a badly set exam, du­bi­ous group ex­er­cise and non­sen­si­cal in­ter­view, can­di­dates are now re­quired to un­dergo a poly­graph test as de­ter­mined by the na­tional se­cu­rity min­is­ter. Sec­tion 4.8 of the Pro­mo­tion Reg­u­la­tions states: “A can­di­date should not be pro­moted un­less that can­di­date has been duly vet­ted and has been suc­cess­ful in the vet­ting. The vet­ting should be in ac­cor­dance with the vet­ting stan­dards rec­om­mended by the com­mis­sioner of po­lice and ap­proved by the Min­istry of Home Af­fairs and Na­tional Se­cu­rity.”

I am in­formed that this sec­tion was in­serted by gov­ern­ment notwith­stand­ing that sec­tion 94 (3) of the con­sti­tu­tion states clearly that the power to ap­point of­fi­cers up to the rank of in­spec­tor is that of the com­mis­sioner of po­lice. On this sub­ject, I am re­li­ably in­formed that there is ac­tu­ally a case be­fore the courts chal­leng­ing the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of the reg­u­la­tions. There­fore, I will say very lit­tle on this un­til the mat­ter is de­cided but what I found strange is that the process is on­go­ing whilst the mat­ter is in court.

Hav­ing said all the above, I wish to ask at what cost this poly­graph ex­er­cise comes. I am re­li­ably in­formed that it costs al­most three hun­dred dol­lars per day for a poly­graph ex­am­iner. With two poly­graph examiners plus their meals, ac­com­mo­da­tion and trav­el­ling, and over seventy of­fi­cers to be ex­am­ined, one can only imag­ine the fi­nan­cial cost of this ex­er­cise.

This mat­ter should be of se­ri­ous con­cern to cit­i­zens be­cause in an age where gov­ern­ment can­not pro­vide ba­sic tools for the po­lice such as com­mu­ni­ca­tion ra­dios, com­put­ers and print­ers, they can find this amount of money, which I am sure was not bud­geted for, to de­ter­mine whether a po­lice of­fi­cer should be pro­moted. Is this not the same gov­ern­ment that was ask­ing po­lice of­fi­cers and public ser­vants to take a 5% pay cut? Is this the same gov­ern­ment that can­not find funds to re­place bug-in­fested fur­ni­ture?

Fur­ther­more, be­fore the min­is­ter asks po­lice of­fi­cers to take a poly­graph test, should not he and his cab­i­net col­leagues lead by ex­am­ple by first tak­ing such a test? Is this the same gov­ern­ment which took peo­ple straight from the street and placed them in the foren­sic lab­o­ra­tory from where co­caine dis­ap­peared? Is there a drug king-pin in gov­ern­ment and, if so, who is this king-pin?

The bot­tom line is the com­mis­sioner of po­lice does not need to spend that amount of scarce re­sources to de­ter­mine the suit­abil­ity of the men and women un­der his com­mand. It is my view that in small po­lice or­ga­ni­za­tions like ours, if the com­mis­sioner does not know the men and women un­der his com­mand, then he should be fired.

The method of pro­mo­tions for lo­cally gazetted po­lice of­fi­cers con­tin­ues to be a

source of con­tention here.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.