Saturday, January 20, 2018

Chance for PSC to make amends


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If, indeed, the Police Service Commission (PSC) is undergoing an attitude change in discharge of its "oversight function" for the Police Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners, such a coming to its senses is only to be welcomed. Finally, PSC chairman Ramesh Deosaran appears to have conceded the damaging consequences of the "tensions" between the PSC and the country's topmost police officers. "Given recent experience," he said, "all attempts must be made to establish a fruitful partnership."

However, Prof Deosaran must be reminded that the "recent experience" has been shaped by an attitude which, from the very first day of his appointment as PSC chairman, seemed to reflect preconceived bias against CoP Dwayne Gibbs. Presumably, this was not the chairman's intent.

Instead, he may have been trying to convey to the public that the new board of the PSC, unlike previous ones, would be more assiduous in prosecuting their duty to oversee the upper hierarchy of the Police Service and be more transparent in how it was doing so. That mandate was given particular urgency in light of the overwhelming failure of the previous three police commissioners to arrest the spiralling crime rates over the past decade.

Unfortunately, Prof Deosaran's oft-voiced criticisms of Government's predilection for foreign expertise in crime-fighting, and the somewhat xenophobic comments from various other quarters about Mr Gibbs and his Deputy Jack Ewatski, made it appear that the PSC chairman had already decided to give these two officers a failing grade. If the professor was aware of that perception, he should have been extremely rigorous in the process and methodology of the assessments which eventually resulted in a mere pass for the top cops.

Now, however, these appraisals have been seriously called into question, not least because of objections raised by Mr Ewatski which, at the very least, seem to have made a prima facie case against Prof Deosaran's professionalism. It now appears that the Deputy Commissioner's response, along with a legal challenge from Mr Gibbs about the methodology, has led to the PSC's sudden attempt at reconciliation.

But the "fruitful partnership" Prof Deosaran has called for must begin with the PSC coming clean about the bases and scope of the officers' appraisals (and making copies available to them), and clearing the air by ending the destructive secrecy it has maintained.

This is necessary in order to repair the damage the PSC has done to Commissioner's Gibbs' image and authority over the Police Service. Such an airing gives the top cop and his deputy an opportunity to respond by explaining their crime-fighting strategies, or forces the PSC board to issue a mea culpa. Either way, transparency is required in order to rebuild public trust.