Last update: 04-Dec-2013 12:33 pm
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Cops win round one in promotion battle
High Court judge Ronnie Boodoosingh yesterday ruled in favour of a group of 18 police sergeants, who claimed they were unfairly treated during the Police Service’s promotion exercise, last year.
In a 15-page ruling delivered in the Port-of-Spain High Court, Hall of Justice, yesterday, Boodoosingh declared that the decision of acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams and the Promotion Advisory Board (PAB) not to award the group maximum points in the absence of an examination, a key component of the promotion procedure, was unreasonable and unfair. He directed the PAB to compile and submit a revised merit list to reflect the officers’ proper ranking to Williams for his consideration.
However, he dismissed their claim for compensation for loss of earnings while labelling it as “speculative.” “Promotions are a matter for the commissioner. One also cannot be certain whether all of the officers would have been promoted or be entitled to be promoted given the number of promotion spaces that would have been available in December 2012,” Boodoosingh said. He instead suggested that the commissioner was free to backdate the officers’ promotions, if they qualified using the revised list.
“This would be urged. If this is done the claimants would not have suffered any significant financial loss,” Boodoosingh said. In the lawsuit, the group also challenged Williams and/or the board’s failure to set an examination for the promotion process, as stipulated in the Police Service Act and Police Service Regulations of 2007.
The legislation specifies the promotion procedure and says promotions are to be based on a performance appraisal, an interview and an examination. It carries a maximum of 40 points and the interview 25 points. Boodoosingh described the delay to implement the examination as unfortunate and said the issue needed to be addressed urgently. Despite his commentary on the issue, Boodoosingh declined to grant an order to rectify it.
“It is hoped that the court’s observation would be adequate to get the process going,” Boodoosingh said. In their submissions, which were presented by Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal, the officers relied on two departmental orders issued in November 2007 which said examination points would be based on CXC/GCE exam grades and a qualifying exam in English language. The orders also said officers who possessed valid university degrees or passed the qualifying exam would be automatically awarded 35 points.
She also submitted that they relied on communication from then head of the PAB former deputy commissioner Maurice Piggott, who made similar representations as found in the departmental orders. The officers submitted that other Second Division ranks were awarded points based on two examinations—on English language and police duties—and sergeants were the only group to be tested solely on English language.
In reply, the Police Commissioner and the board claimed the lawsuit was an abuse of process as the officers could have appealed the decision through the Police Service Commission’s Appeal Board. Senior Counsel Seenath Jairam, Lemuel Murphy, Gerald Ramdeen and Shankar Bidaisee represented Williams and the PAB. Attorneys Westmin James and Ria Reyes also appeared for the police sergeants.
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