When you can no longer count on the jus­tice sys­tem, what’s left?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Rankin Kop­per

Since the cu­ri­ous “vol­un­tary” early re­tire­ment of Com­mis­sioner Ver­non Fran­cois last year, the RSLPF has been fronted by Act­ing Com­mis­sioner Er­rol Alexan­der. In ad­di­tion to a va­cancy for the post of com­mis­sioner, there are sev­eral va­can­cies in the ex­ec­u­tive ranks of the RSLPF. In fact, ex­cept for one con­firmed As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice in the per­son of Frances Henry, al­most ev­ery­one, from as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent, is act­ing in their po­si­tion.

Not­with­stand­ing that Frances Henry is the only con­firmed and most se­nior of­fi­cer in years of ser­vice among the ex­ec­u­tive core, clearly she has been re­jected and hu­mil­i­ated by the cur­rent govern­ment. She had been act­ing deputy com­mis­sioner for a few months but just when she was rea­son­ably ex­pect­ing to be con­firmed, she was with­out ex­pla­na­tion or­dered back to her sub­stan­tive rank, with her sub­or­di­nate Su­per­in­ten­dent Moncherry be­ing ap­pointed her su­per­vi­sor, as Act­ing Deputy.

In a des­per­ate at­tempt to nor­mal­ize the sit­u­a­tion, the Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion late last year ad­ver­tised va­can­cies, with set qual­i­fi­ca­tions for as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent, su­per­in­ten­dent, as­sis­tant com­mis­sioner and com­mis­sioner. Strangely, there was no ad­ver­tise­ment for the post of deputy, not­with­stand­ing the fact that Deputy Alexan­der, the cur­rent Act­ing Com­mis­sioner, is due for pre-re­tire­ment leave around April this year. This means that there will be two va­can­cies for deputy. Could it be that the deputies have been sur­rep­ti­tiously cho­sen with­out ad­ver­tise­ment?

In re­sponse to the ad­ver­tise­ment, sev­eral of­fi­cers ap­plied for the dif­fer­ent po­si­tions. The feed­back from the PSC proved to be very wor­ri­some, con­fus­ing and sus­pi­cious. Sev­eral of the most se­nior, most ex­pe­ri­enced and com­pe­tent of­fi­cers, who in­ci­den­tally met all the qual­i­fi­ca­tions set by the em­ployer, re­ceived let­ters no­ti­fy­ing them they had not been “short­listed” for in­ter­views. Even more per­plex­ing was the fact that while the cited se­nior of­fi­cers re­ceived let­ters say­ing they had been cast aside, sev­eral ju­niors, among them some who did not meet the ad­ver­tised re­quire­ments, were in­vited to at­tend in­ter­views.

In re­sponse, ASP Brian Sa­muel sought a ju­di­cial re­view and an in­junc­tion to stay the process. This mat­ter is down to be heard in open court this month. But upon the first call­ing of the mat­ter, the PSC in­formed the court they had de­cided not to make any ap­point­ments. In­stead, they planned to re-ad­ver­tise the va­can­cies. How­ever, they ad­ver­tised only the post of com­mis­sioner—with dras­ti­cally changed re­quire­ments. At least in some quar­ters there is the strong sus­pi­cion that the re­quired qual­i­fi­ca­tions were mod­i­fied to keep one tar­geted of­fi­cer out of the run­ning. Fol­low­ing, the qual­i­fi­ca­tions set down in the first and se­cond ad­ver­tise­ments:

• First ad­ver­tised qual­i­fi­ca­tions and ex­pe­ri­ence: Mas­ter’s de­gree in man­age­ment, busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion, law or re­lated dis­ci­pline with at least eight years in a se­nior man­age­ment po­si­tion within a po­lice force Or: Bach­e­lor’s de­gree in man­age­ment or crim­i­nal jus­tice, plus diploma or cer­tifi­cate in pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion or re­lated dis­ci­pline with at least ten years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in a se­nior man­age­ment po­si­tion within a po­lice force; a min­i­mum of twelve years’ lead­er­ship ex­pe­ri­ence in op­er­a­tional and or­ga­ni­za­tional pol­icy func­tion; pref­er­ence will be given to can­di­dates who have com­pleted a se­nior com­mand post.

• Se­cond ad­ver­tised qual­i­fi­ca­tions and ex­pe­ri­ence: Mas­ter’s de­gree in man­age­ment, busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion, crim­i­nal jus­tice, polic­ing, se­cu­rity or law; or a re­lated dis­ci­pline with man­age­ment ex­pe­ri­ence in the po­lice force at Grade 16 and above; or an equiv­a­lent level of man­age­ment ex­pe­ri­ence in the area of se­cu­rity. Ex­pe­ri­ence in polic­ing or se­cu­rity and train­ing in lead­er­ship will be an as­set. Or: Bach­e­lor’s de­gree in man­age­ment, busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion, polic­ing, se­cu­rity, crim­i­nal jus­tice or law plus Diploma or Cer­tifi­cate in pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion with man­age­ment ex­pe­ri­ence in the po­lice force at Grade 16 and above, or an equiv­a­lent level of man­age­ment ex­pe­ri­ence in the area of se­cu­rity. Ex­pe­ri­ence in polic­ing or se­cu­rity and train­ing in lead­er­ship will be an as­set.

How­ever, while the ac­tion by ASP Sa­muel is pend­ing, the PSC have de­cided to pro­ceed with in­ter­views. They have writ­ten to ap­pli­cants invit­ing them to at­tend in­ter­views dur­ing the month of Fe­bru­ary for the var­i­ous ranks, con­tin­u­ing where they left off, with some se­nior ex­pe­ri­enced, qual­i­fied and com­pe­tent of­fi­cers ex­cluded. Re­mark­ably, a cou­ple of sergeants have been in­vited to at­tend in­ter­views for the rank of su­per­in­ten­dent—three ranks above their present sta­tions. One of those sergeants was re­ported in the news to be one of four peo­ple vy­ing to con­test on be­half of the SLP the Anse La Raye/Ca­naries seat this com­ing gen­eral elec­tion. More on that in an­other ar­ti­cle.

In any case, if those sergeants should suc­ceed, it would mean they were per­mit­ted to jump two ranks. Es­sen­tially, they would be ap­pointed to su­per­vise their cur­rent first and se­cond level su­per­vi­sors.

For those not fa­mil­iar with the rank struc­ture of the RSLPF: con­sta­ble; cor­po­ral; sergeant; in­spec­tor; as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent; su­per­in­ten­dent; as­sis­tant com­mis­sioner; deputy com­mis­sioner and com­mis­sioner.

Ba­si­cally, the pow­ers that be will be tak­ing sergeants, who are middle level su­per­vi­sors, and per­mit­ting them to jump two ranks be­fore turn­ing them into ex­ec­u­tive level su­per­vi­sors. In ad­di­tion, a cou­ple of other sergeants have been in­vited to jump the rank of in­spec­tor and at­tend in­ter­views for as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent.

One must ask how this would play out in mil­i­tary and para-mil­i­tary or­ga­ni­za­tions where the rank struc­ture and suc­ces­sion plan­ning are key el­e­ments of pro­duc­tiv­ity and sur­vival of those or­ga­ni­za­tions. How would in­spec­tors and as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dents re­act when see­ing their years of ser­vice and ex­pe­ri­ence and their rea­son­able ex­pec­ta­tions ig­nored in favour of their sub­or­di­nates who, as far as they are con­cerned, may not have even proven them­selves as sergeants and, more so, openly show their in­volve­ment in pol­i­tics? Will that en­cour­age any pro­duc­tiv­ity? Or will it breed re­sent­ment, ap­a­thy, re­bel­lion or out­right war?

On 17 Oc­to­ber, 2015 the STAR fea­tured an ar­ti­cle en­ti­tled “Po­lice Moles Tar­geted”. It warned about trou­ble brew­ing in the force that, if not re­solved quickly, could re­sult in blood­shed. The ar­ti­cle re­vealed that some mem­bers of the po­lice force sus­pected col­leagues of spy­ing on them on the or­ders of cer­tain govern­ment min­is­ters, an­other fall-out from IMPACS.

A fol­low-up, ob­vi­ously well-re­searched ar­ti­cle on 7 Novem­ber, 2015 en­ti­tled “It’s Time To Heal Fes­ter­ing Po­lice Wounds!” cited sev­eral ex­am­ples of po­lice spy­ing on po­lice. Also cited were in­ci­dents of po­lice of­fi­cers “ac­ci­den­tally” in­jur­ing their col­leagues. The ar­ti­cle re­called the fa­tal shoot­ing of Su­per­in­ten­dent Alphonse that was blamed on es­caped con­victs in no po­si­tion to de­fend them­selves. It later turned out that the weapon used had be­longed to a high­rank­ing po­lice of­fi­cer!

In the present cir­cum­stances, many po­lice of­fi­cers are won­der­ing if there is an of­fi­cial plan to force the po­lice into war with it­self. Far­fetched? Maybe. But then why is the whole IMPACS mat­ter be­ing al­lowed fur­ther to fes­ter? Most of my po­lice friends see Prime Min­is­ter Kenny An­thony—say they are crazy if you wish, and you could be right—as largely re­spon­si­ble for the cur­rent state of the force. We are wait­ing im­pa­tiently to see the death list that he claims he saw with his own eyes in 2011.

Saint Lu­cia is sit­ting on a time bomb fu­elled by reck­less politi­cians. Must it take bul­lets from the least ex­pected quar­ters to drive that home to our un­con­cerned cit­i­zens? When even vis­it­ing di­plo­mats can see our jus­tice sys­tem is “to­tally bro­ken”, when cit­i­zens, in­clud­ing the po­lice, can­not count on a fair court hear­ing, what’s left if not wall-to-wall chaos?

Er­rol Alexan­der (cen­tre), in his role as act­ing po­lice com­mis­sioner, ad­dresses, with lead­ing mem­bers of the force, ques­tions from lo­cal me­dia per­son­nel. The unan­swered ques­tion re­mains:

How much of what he says is worth the pa­per it’s scripted on?

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