The Government’s decision to purchase the leave of senior police officers who have reached the retirement age will soon be a thing of the past, acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams has said.
So far, millions of dollars have been spent in retaining the officers, including Deputy Commissioners of Police Mervyn Richardson and Simon Alexis.
Sources say last month the leave of two acting assistant commissioners of police was bought.
The two—Gary Gould of Special Branch and Stephen Ramsubhag of the Port of the Spain Division, as well as acting Sen Supt Ishmael David of the Western Division—had their leave “bought out” following a Cabinet decision.
Twenty-three detectives also attached to Special Branch had their leave purchased.
Sources say there is a discontent where leave has been bought out and the officers whose leave was bought are now eligible for further promotion in the Service.
Speaking with the Sunday Express recently, Williams said officers had a say about if they wanted their leave purchased, or to stay on the job and assist in the fight against crime.
He explained that several officers did not take annual vacation leave due to the demands of the job.
“Someone is unable to proceed on leave due to there being a shortage of manpower, and if there is no suitable replacement at that time, you make an assessment and if necessary the leave will be bought.”
Williams explained leave was only bought from officers nearing retirement age.
“The vacation leave may take them into retirement and you have a valuable period of officers spent on vacation instead of working.”
It is at this point, Williams said, Cabinet’s approval will be sought to pay for the officer’s vacation tenure.
Williams said the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service was currently conducting an “aggressive recruitment process” and “backing this up with training”.
Officers will soon be exposed to greater training from organisations with key competencies.
“In the future, there will be no need for officers’ leave to be bought out,” Williams said.
Adding that the matter of leave being bought did not occur overnight but over time, Williams said in the past no one saw it necessary to eliminate the shortage and have training programmes “so those in key positions will have training to be replaced when they leave”.
National Security Minister Gary Griffith when contacted recently described the leave purchase as a “delicate” matter and said he needed to consult Williams and representatives from the Police Social and Welfare Association.
Admitting there were benefits and also disadvantages to leave being bought, Griffith agreed such a move could demotivate up-and-coming officers.
“You lose good resources and manpower and sometimes such action demoralises officers,” he said.
Griffith said he will be meeting with Williams and members of the police social executive soon.
He said the Service is engaged in heavy recruitment to get the manpower strength for the Rapid Response unit.
President of the Police Social and Welfare Association acting Insp Anand Ramesar, in an interview with the Sunday Express, said the issue of buying out leave of police officers was one which the police association would have raised with the commissioner on several occasions.
“The association continues to maintain that leave should not be bought out, unless there is a policy in place that affords transparency and equal opportunities for all police officers to be considered.”
Ramesar said there continued to be complaints from members of the First Division (Assistant Superintendent of Police and up) whose promotions are prevented, “where an officer who would otherwise be on preretirement leave is retained when his leave has been bought out”.
In many instances, Ramesar said members were concerned because “performance as a criteria appears to be a weak contender as far as the buying out of leave is concerned”.
He said recent meetings with Williams resulted in the commissioner informing the association that the purchase of leave will be discontinued until there is a policy and agreement with the association.
“The necessity to buy out leave is a direct crisis coming out of the failure of the management in the Police Service to adhere to the promotion regulations and to continuously assess officers and ensure there is a sufficient pool of candidates available, who have been assessed and eligible for promotion,” Ramesar said.