Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Electing the CoP?

The report prepared and presented to the Government by crime analyst and commentator, Prof Ramesh Deosaran, on proposals to create a more effective Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS), has come up with the startling and likely ineffective suggestion that the top jobs in the service be decided by popular ballot.

Scrap the Police Service Commission (PSC), the probe team said it found out, having collected responses from what it described as “various sources”.

As “an appointment alternative,” the Deosaran team said its deliberations favoured a system in which the Police Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioners should be elected “by the direct vote of the eligible population, thus bringing the people's voice and representative government into action.”

After having scrapped a previous arrangement in which the PSC made the choice as to who would be the country's top crime fighter, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, through actions in the Parliament, settled upon a system which involved considerations for such positions by an international team. This was effected through a contract awarded to professionals at a university in the United States.

Embarrassingly, however, we have come to grief over this development, with the massive campaign of opposition and downright hostility from many quarters against nationals from Canada who were selected as commissioner and one of two deputy commissioners in that process.

Such was the stacking of the decks against them, from quarters high and low, that both gentlemen packed up their belongings one day and left together, midway during their assignment here.

And since 2012, we have laughably been in a merry-go-round, with a Trinidad and Tobago citizen as acting Commissioner, repeatedly having his tenure in office extended every six months.

It is to be noted here that Prof Deosaran himself had resigned from the PSC in frustration, over his conclusion that he was getting nothing done.

A reversion to the late, unlamented arrangement by which the CoP was first selected by the PSC, then to be subject to parliamentary approval, carrying with it the appearance of political involvement, Prof Deosaran and his team have discounted in their report, laid in parliament last week.

Coming therefore as a most novel approach to the appointment of some of the most critical positions in the country's crime-fighting apparatus, this latest proposal at least lends itself to conscientious consideration.

From all quarters in the society, from every angle, cutting across demographics and interests, public, private and non-governmental, we have been expressing views and opinions on this matter of the leadership of the TTPS, and its implications for effective management and suppression of the crime menace in our midst.

Perhaps this is what the Deosaran team picked up in its survey of opinions on the subject. And as a means of putting this sentiment up for further scrutiny and testing, the suggestion has come forward in the form of a recommendation to the government. In the end, however, this may turn out to be not as uncontentious as it appears at first blush.

Popular sentiment may render this task vulnerable to the inevitability of support along accepted political lines, and this will result in great disservice to the selection of a Commissioner of Police.

Given the importance attached to the task of those persons occupying the topmost positions in the Police Service, it could turn out to presenting the society with no real solution. The idea therefore, appears to be a non-starter.