As the newly installed Police Service Commission (PSC) works to ensure that the correct procedures are followed in disciplinary matters, Chairman Paul Slowe says that cutting a rank’s wages as a form of punishment should be abolished if the force is to successfully stamp out corruption.
“In these hard guava season[s], it is my view that taking away a man’s money when he is found guilty is not the right thing… I don’t think you can at the same time take away a man’s pay and say you want to stamp out corruption,” the retired Assistant Commissioner told Sunday Stabroek in a recent interview. He added that he has taken note of the haste with which this form of punishment was being handed down over the years.
The PSC has the power under the Constitution of Guyana to make appointments of any officer of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) from the rank of Inspector up as well as to exercise disciplinary control over persons holding or acting in such offices.
Speaking to Sunday Stabroek at his Kingston office, Slowe noted that this issue was among the first discussed by the new commission. He informed that during a meeting at which members of the force’s administration were present, it was agreed that this form of punishment cannot be enforced if corruption is to be tackled. In this regard, he said attention will be paid to the other forms of punishment listed in the Police (Discipline) Act.
He recalled that while an active member of the force, the popular choice of punishment was a strong letter of warning followed by a six month report by the rank’s superior. He said that if the rank commits another offence, a final warning letter was issued and thereafter, it was either dismissal or a reduction in rank depending on the offence.
“We have said that even though we have the authority to do so (impose a fine not exceeding ten days pay) we are going to be careful in doing that…there is a range of punishment,” he said.
Aside from the fine, the Act allows for admonition, a reprimand, a severe reprimand, the award of extra duties and fatigue not exceeding four hours in every 24 hours, confinement to barracks for any period not exceeding 28 days with or without drill, reduction in rank and dismissal from the force. These forms of punishment are delegated by the commission and are subject “to such conditions as it thinks fit.”
Slowe told this newspaper that when the commission was reconstituted, it found dozens of disciplinary matters pending, with some from as far back as 2013.
He said some of the matters were sent to the commission for action to be taken and disciplinary tribunals were established to hear the matters. The tribunals met and made recommendations to the commission that some of the matters should be disposed of. “So, those things were there and nothing had happened …since we have been here, we have been able to get rid of those …all of those matters have been dealt with,” he said, before adding that in the remaining matters, tribunals were never set up. With respect to those, the PSC has written to the commissioner asking for recommendations which will enable fast-track that process and the hearings to be done as required. Among those matters is the case of former SWAT Unit Head Motie Dookie, who was accused of smuggling 30 cases of whisky in December last year but was spared criminal charges after the driver of the vehicle that he was in at the time of the interception took full responsibility for the contraband.
Dookie was sent on special leave but moved to the court and got the decision overturned. He is back on the job. Slowe assured that this matter is being looked at and is hopeful that this and the remaining matters, which number about 30 in total, can be disposed of within a month.
Since taking office, he said, only a handful of new matters have been brought to the commission.
Slowe made it clear that he is not satisfied with the way most of the disciplinary matters were handled previously and stressed that the process of getting the matters before the commission is too slow. He spoke of a case where two officers have been off the job since the commission was reconstituted but, although requested, the required information is yet to be received.
Putting mechanisms in place will not only ensure that matters are dealt with expeditiously but will ensure that the process is smooth and transparent, he said, while stressing that he doesn’t want it to appear that the commission is favouring one person among others.
Slowe informed that he was “amazed and surprised” to find, after looking at the files, that in “almost every single case the law was not being followed.”
He explained that the Act specifically states that all offences of a disciplinary nature must be investigated by a person of no less than a rank of sergeant but who must be of a higher rank than the person who has been alleged to have committed the offence. Yet, he found a deviation of this in almost every case. He said he saw cases of the commissioner making decisions and constables penning letters to the superiors who were being investigated.
Slowe said after recognising this, he went to the force’s administration and made it clear that all such matters must be referred to PSC immediately and not the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) and that no attempt must be made by the members of the force to investigate.
Once the matter reaches the commission, it will then delegate the authority, either to a department or a person to investigate and once that is completed the matter would then be sent back to the commission for further decisions.
“The thing is clear, the constitution is clear that the commission has to delegate, directly in writing to the persons but it wasn’t being done,” he said, while stressing that the commissioner has no authority to delegate anyone to investigate anything as was previously done. “It cannot work. It is a gross violation,” he said.
Meanwhile, Slowe informed that the commission will be publishing a promotions lists on December 31st. He said that a decision was taken to delay it until then, given that so many disciplinary matters were pending and it would have been unfair to those ranks.
He said that the force’s administration has been asked to submit the names of the ranks for promotions no later than November 15th. Once the recommendations are submitted, he said, the commission will sit and deliberate and “promotions are going to be made on the 31st December [or] thereabout, as had become traditional.”
According to Slowe, in a correspondence to the administration, the commission pointed out that Standing Order Number 22 speaks to quality of the persons recommended for promotion. These qualities include the necessary qualities of leadership, along with integrity, superior intelligence, efficiency, zeal, loyalty and energy in the discharge of their duties.
Making the point that seniority is not a quality listed, he assured that the commission will be careful in its deliberation and will try to ensure that the promotion is meritorious as much as possible.