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Acting CoP in unique position
Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams is now on his second extension in the role after taking up the role in August 2012. It seems likely that his tenure as Acting CoP run on to another extension, given the uncertainties expressed by everyone involved in the CoP appointment process.
Last year Professor Ramesh Deosaran has described the selection as a process as a “tangled web,” while this week Minister of National Security Jack Warner described the situation as “unpardonable” on Friday. Unless there is a radical overhaul of the current procedure for choosing a Commissioner of Police, there’s to be a real possibility it might take two years to appoint a new CoP.
“What do you tell a man,” Mr Warner asked, “that every six months he has to act?” The security minister’s concerns are an effective summary of this uncomfortable situation. Mr Williams finds himself in the disturbing situation of being both the man in the job, and the man rejected for the job on two occasions. In this situation, he’s already indicated that he will not be applying for the post, and that puts him in a quite liberating position.
Here’s what the acting CoP might do. Be bold.
Mr Williams is in a unique position to speak truth to power. With no formal tenure, he is well-positioned to boldly work toward a clearer delineation between the responsibilities of the Police Service and the wishes of the State and to call out such infractions when they occur.
The acting CoP has already shown a willingness to clearly mark the line between the police service and politics, keeping a tight lip when teased by official government statements and declining in November 2012 to kowtow to a Ministerial suggestion that crime statistics should no longer be announced.
Mr Williams’ polite unwillingness to mix police business with the expediences of political banter suggest that he understands the value of an independent police service. Be transformational. The tenure of former Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs illustrated that major changes to the way the service has come to work will be greeted by resistance.
Many of the concepts in the 21st Century Policing Initiative were changes that were sensible and should have been made sustainable through more effective collaboration with officers. Mr Williams should rebrand and craft a new effort at implementing the best of those ideas; one that’s driven by more in-house cooperation that Dwayne Gibbs was able to muster.
Be responsive. The acting CoP has already shown that he is willing to act on what’s happening on the beat. His frontline work leading the police in Laventille is a positive indicator of his respect for the importance of police shoe leather on local pavements. He should model that focus on public engagement and improved personnel presence and bring it to communities throughout the country.
A police officer should be someone that people know through constant contact, not a stranger in an office who’s there to take a report with grudging reluctance.
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