Acting Police Commissioner James Philbert, who was granted four extensions, was yesterday told to pack up and leave office. The Police Service Commission (PSC) wrote Philbert yesterday, advising him to immediately demit office. As a result, the PSC has appointed Deputy Police Commissioner Stephen Williams– who was bypassed for the top cop post in 2008–to act as commissioner until Canadian Dwayne Gibbs takes over next month. Philbert, whose fourth extension was to end on September 30, will officially hand over office to Williams on Monday.
Late yesterday, Philbert confirmed the development, admitting that the PSC's letter had arrived at his office. When interviewed, Philbert said he had not personally read the letter but was aware of its contents. He said: "I finish work and I am pleased with my performance as acting commissioner." Philbert, in his normal stern tone, added: "I am no stooge and I have no animosity against anyone." As to what may have caused the sudden move by the PSC to write, asking him to leave, Philbert said he could not say why.
But there has been widespread speculation by several senior officers last night that Philbert, during yesterday's CNMG's Morning Talk Show, may have said something which offended the People's Partnership Government. On the show, he explained that former National Security minister Martin Joseph had promised a pay hike for all police officers–a burning issue now between the Government and the Police Service Social and Welfare Association. Philbert said when he made this statement during yesterday's television interview, he spoke the truth.
He said: "I spoke the truth when I said so. He (Joseph) had proposed a salary increase for all officers. I'm not begging anyone for anything. I'm not stooging for anyone."
It was only on Thursday that Cabinet approved the salaries of Gibbs and his Canadian counterpart Jack Ewatski, deputy police commissioner elect. Gibbs is to be paid US$205,000 per annum, and Ewatski, Can$200,000 per annum, under a three-year contract. Philbert, who was born on December 16, 1948, joined the Police Service on February 21,1964. He worked his way up the ranks as an investigator in the Robbery Squad, Homicide Bureau and Intelligence Unit, apart from several other elite units in the service. He was appointed acting police commissioner on June 27, 2008, after the retirement of his predecessor Trevor Paul who had recommended Philbert for the post when he (Paul) was demitting office. Philbert has always maintained that he was ready to leave the service, having served as a policeman for almost 46 years.
He has also said in several interviews that the Police Service still faced some challenges, but did his best with the resources which were available to him. In July this year, Philbert took on Attorney General Anand Ramlogan after the AG, at a post-Cabinet news conference, criticised him (Philbert) for failing to protect the construction site of the Lighthouse of the Lord Jesus Christ church on the Heights of Guanapo. Looters carted away more than $5 million in building materials from the site. But the same evening, Philbert shot back at Ramlogan, saying Ramlogan was out of place. Philbert said Ramlogan exhibited "contempt, disdain, bias and animosity to the office of the commissioner of police."