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Axe Over Top Cops?
Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs and his deputy Jack Ewatski are reportedly under the gun. Cabinet sources confirmed to Sunday Guardian that the contracts of both men are under review, as they have failed to meet the expectations of the public and get a handle on the spiralling crime situation.
On Friday, the contracts and performances of the top cops were reportedly discussed at a meeting that included Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, chairman of the Police Service Commission Prof Ramesh Deosaran, National Security Minister Jack Warner and a senior police officer.
The man being tipped for the job, if Gibbs’ three-year contract is terminated before it expires, is deputy commissioner of police Stephen Williams, well-placed sources told Sunday Guardian. The meeting took place at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s. Sources said Warner was expected to attend another meeting yesterday morning with the PM. He was also scheduled to attend an event in south Trinidad, but never showed up.
On the local election campaign trail, the PM had warned that a “specific clause” in Gibbs’ contract allowed him to be terminated if he did not perform. Williams had failed to find favour with the People’s National Movement (PNM) administration. The PNM’s choice was James Philbert, while the United National Congress was in support of Williams.
The performance of Gibbs and Ewatski has come under scrutiny from Warner since he was sworn in as the new National Security Minister. And in more than one instance, Warner has placed Gibbs in an awkward position in public, where he was asked to explain the reason for the high level of crime in certain areas. Gibbs and Ewatski are currently challenging the unsatisfactory appraisals they received from the Police Service Commission.
Both men had refused to sign the appraisals. Gibbs’ selection for the position of Police Commissioner was announced in Parliament in July 2010, one week after Canadian Neal Parker was rejected. Penn State had earlier recommended Williams for the top-cop post, but he was rejected by the former PNM government. Gibbs and Ewatski arrived from Canada in September 2010 to assume duties.
Almost two years later, and with no significant reductions in the crime rate, both men have been faced with a barrage of criticisms from politicians, the T&T Police Service and the public. Warner has been publicly critical of Gibbs’ 21st-century policing plan, which entails closing some police stations at night and encouraging police patrols.
Sources told Sunday Guardian that even if a decision is taken to terminate the contracts of the men, they still stand to receive hefty payments. Gibbs is paid a monthly salary of $108,992 ($1,307,900 a year), while Ewatski receives $104,000 a month ($1,248,000 annually).
The remuneration offered to both men, according to former security minister John Sandy, was based on the fact that the selected candidates had to relocate to a foreign jurisdiction. With the murder toll already past 200 for the year, Gibbs and Ewatski have been in the hot seat since the year began:
• Gibbs came under fire for seeking to make a $900,000 deal to secure a surveillance aircraft to be used as part of the national security arsenal
• The PSC completed performance appraisals for the commissioners and stated that it has executed no notice nor taken any disciplinary action at that time
• Ewatski refused to sign his appraisal, graded “fair,” saying the process was flawed; Gibbs also challenged his and hired Dana Seetahal to represent his interests
• At a Joint Select Committee sitting of Parliament, members of the PSC, headed by Deosaran, said the performance of Gibbs and Ewatski was not up to par
• Gibbs admits there is tension between him and the PSC
• Police Service Welfare Association serves Gibbs with pre-action protocol letter
• Fresh appraisals, says Deosaran
• Gibbs had no prior knowledge of the plan to demolish the Highway Re-route Movement’s camp in Debe
President of the Police Welfare Association Anand Ramesar said last night that he had received a BlackBerry message on Friday that “they were going, but we have nothing more than that.” Ramesar said, “We have no confirmed word on it, but if that is the case, we support that position 100 per cent,” arguing that the country was “not getting value for money with the retention of those two officers.”
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