Stressing the need for the restoration of public trust and the reform of the Guyana Police Force, President David Granger yesterday said that his choice for substantive police commissioner would be someone who is “unbribable” and can steer the organisation in the right direction.
Granger made these pronouncements at the ceremony for the swearing in of the members of the Police Service Commission, which is crucial to the appointment of a substantive commissioner.
Retired Assistant Commissioner of Police Paul Slowe is the new Chairman of the Commission, while retired Assistant Commissioners Clinton Conway and Vesta Adams and Claire Jarvis, along with Public Service Commission Chairman Attorney Michael Somersall, are the other members.
“Integrity is the most important and I am looking for intelligence and impartiality. I don’t give orders to the Commissioner of Police but I want somebody who is unbribable. I want somebody who is intelligent and want somebody who is committed to carrying out the programme of security sector reform who has the initiative and who can generate public trust. If I put somebody there who is not trustworthy… the public would laugh,” he told reporters, when asked about some of the qualities he is looking for.
Assistant Commissioner David Ramnarine, who is the most senior rank in the force at the moment, was appointed acting Commissioner following the retirement of Top Cop Seelall Persaud several months ago.
Subsequently, Granger started a process to select a new Police Commissioner and eight Assistant Commissioners—Clifton Hicken, Leslie James, Lyndon Alves, Marlon Chapman, Paul Williams, Nigel Hoppie and Maxine Graham and Ramnarine-are vying for the post.
They were interviewed by a panel which included the President and Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan. The interview, which included a written component, was held at the Ministry of the Presidency and based on the information provided to this newspaper Graham, the lone female, excelled.
When asked if any of the eight possess the qualities he is searching for, Granger yesterday responded, “I am searching” before adding that he also has to get advice from the new commission.
“It is public knowledge that I did interview eight Assistant Commissioners, so I understand the field from which I have to choose and other jurisdictions in the Caribbean have invited officers from other countries like Britain and so on. I don’t intend to do that. I think we have the talent in Guyana [so] I intend to appoint a Guyanese but I am looking for somebody who has the intelligence, the impartiality and the integrity to hold such a position,” he said.
He stressed that Guyana needs such a person, “a commissioner who they can look up to and I expect that he is going to be supported by four deputy commissioners.” He stressed that Guyana has not had so many Deputy Commissioners for a long time and as a result the hierarchy of the force has been “flat. Everyone is of the same rank and of course that created morale problems. Everybody wants to rise to the top.”
With the reconstitution of the commission and the appointment of Slowe as Chairman, Granger will now have meaningful consultation with him and the Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo with respect to the appointment of a substantive Commissioner of Police. This, according to the president, will be done “as soon as practical.”
Asked for a more definitive time period, Granger told reporters that Slowe now has to meet with his fellow commissioners and review the potential candidates before consultation can take place. “I told them that I am ready at any time for such a consultation but I am prohibited from proceeding without a consultation,” he stressed.
Slowe while noting the choice will not be a “one-man” decision, stressed the need for the choice to be someone who is competent and who commands respect.
He told reporters shortly after collecting his instrument of appointment that he has to meet and consult with the other members to discuss the qualities they are looking for. He envisioned that they would look for someone who is competent, can command the respect of the members of the force and the public, and in whom persons have confidence.
Asked what he is looking to change so as to get the police force back to where it should be, he said that the commission will have to look at the constitutional mandate which includes, promotions and discipline. Stressing that discipline is very important, he said that when he was in the force there were “lots of issues with the whole process.” He reminded that the Constitution states that the disciplining of those ranking from Inspector to Assistant Commissioner is the duty of the service commission. “But for a number of years—we have had issues up to when I left and I suspect it has continued—where matters are there pending for long, unduly long periods of time… Justice delayed is justice denied,” he said before adding that this is one area that needs to be looked at very seriously to ensure that the entire disciplinary process is smooth and efficient.
Jagdeo had been very critical of the intended appointment of Slowe as the Chairman. In response, Slowe said yesterday that while he didn’t want to say much about the issue, he does have baggage. “It’s what’s in the baggage that is the important thing. The baggage contains discipline. It contains professionalism. It contains measures to deal with corruption. So, forget about the baggage part, just examine what’s inside and I think that is what I am interested in,” he said.
Meanwhile, Granger, in his remarks shortly after swearing in the commissioners, expressed hope that when appointed the substantive commissioner and his four deputies will “vigorously” carry out the approved security reforms, which aim at restoring public trust in the force, at reinforcing the force’s capability to fight crime and in promoting men and woman of the highest calibre to become officers.
Earlier in his address, he said that the force can carry out its mandated tasks effectively “only if it is commanded by a core of officers who are competent, committed and uncorrupted.” He said that most senior officers must be men and women of proven independence, integrity and intelligence.
The president noted that the force must be able to “enjoy the trust of the public.”
According to the president, the constitution gives him the authority to appoint the Commissioner as well as the Deputy Commissioners, acting after meaningful consultation with the Leader of the Opposition and after the chairperson has consulted with the other members of the commission
Granger told the small gathering, which included Ramnarine and Ramjattan, that the appointment of these persons will be consistent with the government’s plan for security sector reform. He pointed out that the Constitution vests the commission with the “power to make appointments to any offices in the police force of or above the rank of inspector, with the power to exercise disciplinary control over persons holding or acting in such offices and the power to remove such from office.” He added that these are very important functions in the current security situation and noted that the need for public trust in the police force and for security sector reform have become even more “urgent” following the presentation of the report of the inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of eight miners at Lindo Creek, ten years ago.
He said that the service commission’s independence can contribute to public trust in the force, to boosting the morale of officers and to ensuring the efficacy of law enforcement. He said that commission’s power of promotion can reestablish the principle of merit in the advancement of officers. The powers of discipline and dismissal applied fairly, he added, can encourage probity and discourage misconduct.