The President’s notification for nomination of acting Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher to be appointed Commissioner of Police will be laid in the House of Representatives on Friday.
This is stated on the Order Paper for Friday’s HoR sitting under “Papers” to be laid.
The Order Paper states, “The notification of Her Excellency the President, in respect of the nomination of Mrs Erla Harewood-Christopher for appointment to the Office of Commissioner of Police.”
The notification is listed to be presented by the Speaker of the House (Bridgid Annisette-George). There are nine other reports listed to be presented as well that day.
According to law, the nomination for a CoP has to be debated and approved (or not) by the Parliament.
The notice appeared on the order paper after the Police Service Commission (PolSC) yesterday sent its merit list of names for Police Commissioner to President Paula-Mae Weekes’ office, the Guardian Media confirmed.
Guardian Media last week reported that the PolSC had been in the process of tallying the scores of the 16 applicants and was expected to send its merit list to the President early this week.
The PolSC had targeted keeping its month-end deadline to complete the selection process. The PolSC’s merit list is said to be “less than a handful,” sources indicated.
One name at a time is being sent to the Parliament for deliberation.
The PolSC, headed by retired Justice of Appeal Judith Jones, opened the process to obtain a CoP last year. In November, the PolSC announced that the December 2022 deadline had been extended to end of this month.
Apart from other aspects of the process, the last part of the exercise involving interviews were done in recent weeks. The PolSc had interviewed three candidates daily, concluding last week, following which scores were tallied.
The 16 applicants included two females— Harewood-Christopher among them, former CoP Gary Griffith, former acting CoP McDonald Jacob (now retired), Assistant Police Commissioner Andre Norton, Lt Col Sheldon Ramanan, a former chief legal officer of the Defence Force; Jason Francis (senior policy adviser at the UN’s Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean) and Sr Supt Anand Ramesar.
Harewood-Christopher is said to have obtained the highest score in the selection exercise.
Harewood-Christopher, a 40-year TTPS veteran up to the rank of DCP, began acting while Jacob was on leave for 35 days since December. She was also due to go on vacation in January.
Yesterday, Government officials couldn’t say if her nomination will be debated on Friday, the same day as it’s presented. But they added, “It will be as soon as possible...”
They didn’t shed any light on whether Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley will pilot Harewood-Christopher’s nomination when debate is done.
Weekes handles 2023 merit list
The last time a CoP was selected - in 2018 - the process, apart from the assessment exercise, was that the name of the highest graded candidate was submitted by the PolSC to the President, who then forwarded that name to the House of Representatives (HoR) for approval.
Where the House didn’t approve of the highest graded candidate on the Order of Merit List, subsequent nominations in order of merit may have been submitted to the House from the Merit List. Where the Merit List was exhausted, the process would have recommenced.
In the 2018 process to select a CoP, the HoR rejected three candidates for the post before Griffith was chosen in July 2018. The three were then acting CoP Stephen Williams, acting DCP Harold Phillip and acting DCP Deodat Dulalchan. The 2018 merit list was approximately five, officials said.
In the ill-fated 2021 merit list which was withdrawn by former PolSC chairman Bliss Seepersad, there had been seven short-listed names. These were said to include Griffith (first), Francis, Norton and Harewood-Christopher.
The current PolSC had received legal advice to disregard the 2021 list and start the CoP selection process afresh, after the current PolSC was appointed in November 2021
The Jones-led PolSC was appointed after the collapse of the Seepersad PolSC between August to October 2021. The host of issues that occurred at that time culminated in an unsuccessful attempt by the Opposition to impeach President Weekes on the merit list issue.
The 2023 CoP merit list has, however, again fallen to Weekes to forward to Parliament.
Weekes’ term ends in March. President-elect Christine Kangaloo, who was elected on January 20, will take the oath of office on March 21.
The 2022/23 selection process included examining candidates’ health, financials, work history, qualifications and doing security checks, polygraphing and the PolSC’s final interview.
Assessment also included the PolSC’s “Increasing Responsibility in Law Enforcement” policy. It was used to assess applicants’ experience and focus on their ability to perform general duties - managing and supervising frontline staff, middle management, senior management and executive.
Host of issues in last 2021 process
Former CoP Gary Griffith had topped the now defunct 2021 list which was taken by previous PolSC chairman Bliss Seepersad to President Paula-Mae Weekes on August 11 , 2021.
It was, however, immediately withdrawn after Seepersad was given information by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. This led to the then-PolSC appointing retired Justice Stanley John to probe Firearms Users’ Licence issues within the TTPS. A report with allegations of great concern was done on this.
The matter of the 2021 list and the Seepersad PolSC triggered a host of issues between August to October 2021: Griffth’s appointment as acting CoP after his contract ended August 17 being sent on leave; Griffith’s lawsuit, PolSC members resigning. with Seepersad also doing so, McDonald Jacob being appointed to act as CoP, a Court ruling finding both appointments unconstitutional and invalid, and Jacob later approved as acting CoP.