The next step in the process to find a new Commissioner of Police began on Wednesday evening when the Government Members of Parliament voted to accept President Paula-Mae Weekes’ picks to the new Police Service Commission.
The five new members are retired Appellate Judge Judith Jones, leadership/management consultant Maxine Attong, chartered accountant Maxine King, criminologist and public safety expert Ian Ramdhanie and attorney Rajiv Persad.
At this point, based on what Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said of the candidates during the debate, we feel comfortable concluding that the candidates are not only competent but going in an intention to fulfil their mandates without fear or favour.
Based on the team’s composition, it seems a sure bet that retired Justice Jones will be selected as the new head, due to her legal background and, equally critical, her knowledge of how society functions and its expectations of persons in such office. Given what the PSC is also likely to face, especially from the Opposition, having telegraphed from the tone of their debate that they will not support this team, Justice Jones may well be just what the doctor ordered for the task ahead.
UNC MP Roodal Moonilal has already implied that one new PSC member is linked to a project in Tobago involving one senior Government member, that King is too close to the ruling People’s National Movement and that Ramdhanie may have interfaced with some PSC members on an undisclosed matter.
These issues raised may well be red herrings or hold absolutely no water as far as the future operation of the new PSC is concerned. However, it may well serve the members so named during the debate to address these issues head-on publicly ahead of officially starting their tenure. This will go a long way towards removing some of the public distrust created by the imbroglio surrounding the previous PSC.
Of course, the biggest issue the body will face is the process surrounding the CoP merit list, given that the previous body had withdrawn it after submitting it to the President. A fresh process may well open up the PSC to litigation from those who would have reached the last phase of that process. But so too would the use of the existing list, since from what the Prime Minister indicated, an issue was raised which may have influenced the decision to withdraw that list and that issue could not have been minor if it prompted a response that led to then-chairman Bliss Seepersad withdrawing it.
Either way, we would not like to be in the position the new body will find itself as it seeks to sort out the mess created by its predecessors. Still, we are certain Justice Jones will be able to give the guidance needed to ensure whatever process used is a fair and equitable one and that the new PSC navigates the choppy waters it will face early on in its tenure. Based on what is currently transpiring on the crime front nationwide, we also hope the new PS will be given the support it needs to complete the process so that a new head to steer the T&T Police Service forward can be found in the shortest possible time.