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Senior cops say Williams biased
Several members of the T&T Police Service adversely affected by Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams’ decision not to promote them recently, have lodged complaints with the Police Service Commission (PSC).
The PSC is chaired by Prof Ramesh Deosaran and includes Addison Khan, Martin George, Kenneth Parker and Jacqueline Cheeseman. The commission is due to meet on January 31, and it is expected that the matter which is causing discomfort within the police ranks will be discussed. Complaints were also lodged with the appeal board, at which some members of the PSC preside.
The affected officers are all sergeants and have sought legal action against Williams following the recently concluded promotion exercise which saw more than 75 officers being elevated to inspectors.
In their letters to the PSC, the officers expressed displeasure over Williams’ inability to address their issues after they queried why they were bypassed, and the procedure used to select officers who were promoted. They noted there was an irregularity with the procedure. In fact, the complaining officers said the procedure used by Williams was biased.
The officers chief complaints were over a change in the marking scheme used, and the failure of the hierarchy to inform them of this. Sources said letters sent to Williams during the latter part of last year requested copies of interview notes, but he turned them down, saying their requests were being addressed.
Apart from writing the PSC, more than 100 officers, through their attorneys, had issued pre-action protocol letters to Williams. Sources said the officers’ attorneys will be filing lawsuits against Williams this week following his unsatisfactory response to their concerns on Friday.
The Sunday Guardian understands Dana Seetahal, SC, and Cedric Neptune have been retained by some of the officers. Contacted by phone, Seetahal confirmed her clients received a response from Williams, but said she could not comment further on the matter.
President of the Police Social and Welfare Association Sgt Anand Ramesar, in a telephone interview, called on the PSC to ask Williams to provide a “clear explanation” as to what happened with these latest promotions.” The circumstances surrounding the promotion of sergeants to inspectors stands out as a tremendous blunder by the acting commissioner of police, insofar as he has failed to respect the call of the association for transparency," Ramesar said.
Ramesar said the affected officers were "severely demoralised" by the situation and that Williams continued to be insensitive towards them. Contacted last night, Williams declined to offer an explanation saying: “I don't have any comment to make. The matter will soon be the subject of the courts and it would not be smart of me to comment.”
Sources said in October 2010, the sergeants were called to a meeting by a senior officer on the promotion advisory board and told there was no management examination in place. As a result, the officers were told those who had secured passes A, B and C in GCE examinations and grades 1, 2 and 3 in CXC, would be given 35 marks across the board.
The senior officer also said the difference in the marks would come from interviews which would carry 25 marks. The eligibility criteria for promotion outlined was: performance appraisal (40 marks), English (35 marks) oral assessment and interview (25 marks). Consultant Joanna King, who was also present, endorsed the process detailed by the senior officer.
Fourteen of the officers seeking legal options hold law degrees and claimed the procedure of the promotion exam from sergeant to inspector was unfair. They claim the departmental order procedure was breached. According to the order, officers who hold law degrees are automatically awarded the full 35 marks for the English exams and are exempted from writing them.
The interviews for advancement to inspector started in 2010, and shortly after the senior officer who initiated the process resigned and Williams took over the interviews.
What must be done
Sources said according to regulations if a merit list is presented for the process a commissioner has a right to decide whether to use it or not in the selection process. If the list is not used, the commissioner must give a reasonable explanation why. Also, if any changes are to be made, it must first be discussed with the Police Social and Welfare Association.
Aggrieved officers are also claiming proper procedure was not adhered to. Noting that publication of the merit list prior to the promotions also did not take place, sources said Williams needs to be held accountable for the "flawed" process.
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