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Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams has been summoned to a meeting with the Police Service Commission (PSC) today to explain the recent spike in murders and the strategies he intends to implement in the fight against this type of crime and criminality. This is according to a release yesterday by the PSC. The meeting takes place from 11.30 am at the commission’s offices, corner Churchill-Roosevelt Highway and Pasea Main Road, Tunapuna.
Williams was summoned in the wake of an unprecedented 20 murders within the first seven days of the year. The commission said yesterday it “views very seriously matters of public safety and the duty of those responsible for it.” Today’s meeting was originally scheduled to review Williams’ performance and he was not expected to attend. A source close to the commission said yesterday his attendance had become necessary because of public concern about the crime situation.
There has been public disquiet about the spate of murders and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar called a special meeting of the National Security Council on Tuesday to advise members, including Williams and Chief of Defence Staff Major Gen Kenrick Maharaj, that she was no longer prepared for any failure to maintain peace. Persad-Bissessar said she had made clear to each member of the National Security Council that they would be held personally accountable for any further such failure.
Williams said previously that any successful crime fight required the support of all citizens and other institutions as the police alone could not fight crime. Williams, who was the Deputy Commissioner in 2012, was elevated to the acting position on August 7 after the sudden resignations of Commissioner of Police Dwayne Gibbs and Deputy Commissioner Jack Ewatski, both Canadians. He was given a second six-month extension from January last year and a third from July. His current term ends on January 31.
The PSC is also expected to formulate its strategic plan for 2014 and beyond and look at the existing system of appointment of a commissioner and two deputy commissioners during today’s meeting. Sources told the T&T Guardian that Williams was most likely to be given another six-month extension.
They added that although there have been a significant number of murders in the first week of the new year, it is likely that Williams may have performed creditably in other areas and his performance was being assessed in those areas as well. Today’s meeting also will review the existing arrangement for the selection of top police officers. A Cabinet-appointed committee, chaired by Deosaran, had been addressing the issue last year but work was halted pending the appointment of a new commission.
The commission, which is chaired by Prof Ramesh Deosaran, was not operational from July to November last year as the term of all the commissioners, except Deosaran, had expired. A new commission was appointed with two new members — architect/planner and former Independent senator Dr James Armstrong and attorney Roamar Achat- Saney — while attorneys Addison Khan and Martin George were reappointed.
Deosaran’s three-year term, which began in 2011, expires in April. Former head of the public service Reginald Dumas had threatened legal action against the Parliament for approving Armstrong and Achat-Saney, two of President Anthony Carmona’s nominees, as members of the PSC.
Dumas is claiming they do not meet the constitutional requirement for membership as commissioners. The Constitution says commissioners must be “qualified and experienced in the disciplines of law, finance, sociology or management.” Dumas is contending that while Achat- Saney is an attorney, Addison Khan and Martin George are also attorneys, while none of the new commissioners appear to be experts in finance or management. The new PSC members began work last month.