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Police Service best in local hands—Williams
The T&T Police Service is best left in the hands of locals. Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams, who officially assumed the portfolio yesterday, however, said he was undecided whether he would apply for the post next year when his acting appointment ends. Williams made the comment at his first media conference as the top cop, held at the Police Administration Building in Portof- Spain.
“I would answer straightforward...I think, yes, it is best left to locals like myself,” he said. “The choice, though, of appointing a commissioner doesn’t rest with me, that would be for the Police Service Commission. But I share the view it is best left for local officers to run the organisation.” In the same breath, however, Williams saluted the efforts of former commissioner Dwayne Gibbs and his deputy Jack Ewatski, two Canadians who resigned suddenly from their posts on July 26.
“As a nation we need to salute these two officers for their performance, having come from Canada to Trinidad and Tobago and dedicated their time,” he said. He also strongly defended his promotion, saying he had served the country faithfully for 33 years and believed he had proved himself as an efficient crimefighter. And during that entire period, Williams said, he has not taken a day’s sick leave.
At the end of his five-month tenure which is expected to end of January 31 next year, Williams said he was yet to consider if he would be applying for the post of police commissioner when advertisements are placed by the Police Service Commission. “I am at the point in the service where you could safely retire and get your pension and move on in life...I would have to make some determination when opportunities come for exploring whether I continue as a police officer into the future,” he said.
In 2008 Williams was nominated for the CoP post. However, the then People’s National Movement (PNM) Government rejected the nomination and gave the nod to James Philbert instead. This is Williams’ second acting appointment in four years. A confident Williams also spoke of his academic qualifications, including the fact that he was a qualified attorney.
The top cop, who described himself as a “professional police officer,” also made it clear that his track record spoke for itself and he had nothing else to prove. “It is difficult for me to appease citizens in relation to political motivation,” he said. “What I can assure the citizens is I have spent the last 33 years working as a police officer. I have done everything that I can do as a professional police officer.
I have been exposed to all levels of training as a police officer. I have actually been exposed to the highest level of training that anyone could receive at leadership level within the Commonwealth in policing. My CV...my record of performance speaks for itself. “I have spent 33 years not taking a day’s sick leave to date. How many people in public life can speak of that? So I don’t have to address the issue around politics.”
Williams said his intention was to focus on the issue of policing, adding that he has made every effort to stay away from politics. There have also been claims that Williams shares a close relationship with National Security Minister Jack Warner. Williams, however, said he had no idea where that perception originated or what fuels it. He said he has shared a public space just twice with Warner.
On one of those occasion he was invited as deputy police commissioner in charge of investigations by the Greater Tunapuna Chamber of Commerce to deliver an address. In that function Warner was the featured speaker. “The Minister of National Security over the weekend was visiting locations for the building of police stations and I accompanied him there,” Williams said.
“So the issue of perception is all in context of fulfilling my job. If I get invited to deliver a speech by the Opposition Leader in relation to crime I’ll be there. If I get invited by another chamber I’ll be there. You will see me anywhere I am invited in an official capacity.”
Nizam supports home-grown talent
Former chairman of the Police Service Commission, Nizam Mohammed, has thrown his support behind Stephen Williams, acting Commissioner of Police, saying he also believed the Police Service would function more effectively if it was run by locals. Mohammed said when Parliament was trying to arrive at a consensus regarding the Police Amendment Bill a few years ago, “for some strange reason” the then PNM government suggested that the posts of police commissioner and deputy police commissioner be advertised internationally.
“I thought that was a mistake. I still maintain we have the personnel within the Police Service who are professional and who can develop their expertise,” he said. Mohammed said the issue of effective succession in the Police Service has been ignored for far too long and this has resulted in a situation where the country was now suffering from a lack of decisive and efficient leadership.
“I believe with some renewed effort the training process, if given priority, could produce the kind of leadership required in the Police Service,” he said. “I also agree that the two Canadians were unable to fit into the local situation given the culture within the Police Service.”
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