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Ewatski: I was not forced to resign
He’s already bought his one-way ticket to Canada, and yesterday Deputy Police Commissioner Jack Ewatski took part in his last executive meeting. His resignation takes effect next Monday. In an exclusive interview with the T&T Guardian yesterday, in his office on the first floor of the Police Administration building in Port-of-Spain, Ewatski revealed how he felt about leaving the Police Service and Trinidad and Tobago.
“I have mixed feelings about leaving. I am saddened in one respect. This isn’t what I anticipated when I signed on for this role. I anticipated continuing to fulfil my contract over the three years. “However, all things being considered, I felt this was the right decision for me, professionally and personally.”
On Monday night, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced that Ewatski and Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs had resigned. But there has been much scepticism from various quarters, including the Opposition, over whether the decision by the Canadian top cops was voluntary or forced. “The reasons for resigning are personal and there have been many aspects, many components to those reasons,” Ewatski said.
“I gave it a very long, involved thought before I made this decision. I respect the opinions of people, and I don’t let one thing in particular be the influencer in making decisions such as this decision I have made.” His thoughts about resigning have been “fairly recent,” occupying his mind within the “last couple of weeks,” he added.
On whether he was forced, bullied or coerced to resign, Ewatski dispelled those suggestions, insisting, “This was my decision...that’s the truth. It’s my decision.” He also declined to comment on whether he was bought out by the Government. Ewatski and Gibbs took up their posts on September 20, 2010. Their resignation letters were dated July 26, 2012, just over a month shy of meeting their two-year mark.
Of his time in office, Ewatski says it was “very interesting.” “It’s been very challenging, rewarding...It has been an eye-opening experience in some respects,” he said. “It has allowed me to reinforce my own thoughts about policing and the whole profession of policing. It’s been a learning experience for me, it’s been a personal growth experience for me. So it’s been a very interesting two years here in Trinidad and Tobago.”
But Ewatski admitted that his role as a senior police officer has been trying at times, as change, especially in police organisations, has been difficult to attain. “I don’t think there is any disputing the fact that when you try to make change in an organisation, that is difficult, especially in policing organisations,” he said.
“Policing organisations are very difficult to change. Police officers for the most part are very conservative. They follow guidelines, rules and regulations and to change...it’s sometimes been very difficult. “That is probably one of the most challenging aspects in terms of getting people to understand the need to change and why change would actually improve their ability to perform the service that they need to provide to the citizens.”
Since assuming office, Ewatski has faced criticism from the Police Service Social and Welfare Association over his managerial skills and the 21st-century policing initiative, which the association has branded as a failure. But while criticism has served to make him more resolute to get the job done, Ewatski said he was not blind to the fact that there were some within the Police Service who did not support his appointment.
“I won’t call it hostility, but again, I know there are people who are resistant to change,” he said. “There have been people right from the time of my appointment who would prefer not to have me appointed...maybe not me personally, but a foreigner coming in. I am certainly aware of that.”
Being a white man at the top level of a predominately black organisation was not an issue, Ewatski said, as he did not experience any negativity over race. Questioned on his relationship with National Security Minister Jack Warner, he replied: “My relationship with a person in that position over my career has always been one of respect for the office, respect for the position.”
Final executive meeting
Ewatski’s last meeting with other members of the executive of the Police Service took place at 8 am yesterday. Instead of a formal setting, the discussions were frank and one-on-one conversations, Ewatski said. “I told them that I hoped that I have brought value to the TTPS and to them personally, in terms of their roles, and to me that is important.
“They agreed my time here was valuable to them personally. “I have learned lots and I think they have learned lots, we all shared lots, and I know many of the people I spoke to were very appreciative of that, and to me that’s very gratifying.” Although he served as a deputy police commissioner, he also came into contact with lower ranks and made friendships there, including some with police constables.
“One officer in particular said the way in which I treated the officers was very different than what they were used to, and he said that in a positive manner,” Ewatski said. “I told him I am very happy to hear that, because I think in this day and age of leadership, you need to have a different approach, and just because you have a certain role or a certain position, that you should not follow blindly. “That doesn’t cut it any more, whether it be police or anywhere else.”
Ewatski: 21st-century initiative will modernise Police Service
When launched in Western Division on April 4 last year, the 21st-century policing initiative got a negative reception both from officers of that division and from the association. The association’s president Sgt Anand Ramesar tried to have the project stopped, by filing an injunction at the Industrial Court.
It was thrown out by the court’s president Deborah Thomas-Felix, but the court nevertheless said the project might be illegal, as the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) was not brought in when the terms and conditions of the project were being drafted. Newly-appointed National Security Minister Jack Warner has openly said he does not support the initiative, especially as it entailed closing stations.
But Ewatski remains adamant that the initiative was working successfully. For one thing, it made police more visible—a change that Warner has also called for. “My support from the transformation through the initiative is I know that it is a policing model that is used universally and it works...There are growing pains, there are teething pains, there are problems with any type of change,” he said.
“But that model addresses and meets the goals of what we all want: higher police visibility, more responsiveness to the public, heightening the level of public and police interaction in a positive manner and providing a better sense of safety and security. How you go about doing it...obviously there are differences.” Ewatski expressed hope that the concept of the initiative would remain intact.
What was achieved?
A different style of leadership is what Ewatski said he has brought to the Police Service. “This is modelling the behaviour that I truly believe how police leaders need to behave,” he said. “When you’re put in leadership in policing, it’s a very huge responsibility. You have to ensure that not only are you a good manager, but you have to ensure that you interact with people at all levels, you need to treat people with respect, with dignity, increasing their confidence and helping them become better leaders.
“I am hoping that my style of leadership would help in the development of the TTPS.” Some of the changes he has made include revamping the E999 system and formulating a road-safety plan, which have placed the Police Service on the right footing to make it more modern, Ewatski said.
What’s next for Ewatski
When he first took up the job, he was excited and humbled, he said. As the months progressed and the job became more challenging, Ewatski said his passion for working for Trinidad and Tobago remained unchanged. “I am in a stage in my life where I don’t allow bitterness to play a role,” he said. “I think that comes with experience, with maturity, it comes with getting to a point in your life when you realise that spending time being bitter over something is really a waste of time.”
Asked whether he would return to Trinidad and Tobago, Ewatski said he has forged many friendships, and he would remain a loyal friend to the country. What’s next for Jack Ewatski? “I am going to go back to Canada, back home to my family and friends...and I will see where life takes me.”
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