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Stephen Williams acting CoP

Wednesday, August 1 2012

click on pic to zoom in
Six-month stint: Stephen Williams will act as Police Commissioner for six months until a new commissioner is recruited....
Six-month stint: Stephen Williams will act as Police Commissioner for six months until a new commissioner is recruited....

FOR THE second time in four years, this country will have an acting Police Commissioner in the person of Stephen Williams, 51, who will serve a six-month term, beginning on August 7, the Police Service Commission (PSC) announced yesterday. Williams is due to take up office on that date and will serve until January 31, 2013.

Contacted yesterday, Williams said his priority will be to get violent crime under control. “There are too many persons dying by way of the gun and violent crime,” Williams told Newsday. “My first focus is to control violent crime facing the country right now.”

Williams says he has some ideas to go about this, but would be consulting first with the executive of the police service before moving forward.

Of the 21st Century programme — which has seen the closure of some police stations during non-peak hours — Williams said the programme would be re-evaluated.

“What has to be done is a review of the programme,” he said. “No doubt there will be value in it and we must find a way to extract that while avoiding the bad areas. At the end of the day it is all about delivery. It is all about serving Trinidad and Tobago to ensure we enjoy a safe and secure environment.”

The programme was a source of contention between National Security Minister Jack Warner and outgoing Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs. Williams, who was in 2008 chosen as the PSC’s top choice for the job of Police Commissioner, said he has been ready to act in the post since 2008. His nomination was not approved by the PNM government under Patrick Manning.

“I have been ready for the position since 2008 and I have demonstrated my capacity to lead,” he said. “As a person I believe that Trinidad and Tobago deserves committed professionals and I will continue to commit myself in the field of policing.”

“For me, I have a different perspective on things. I don’t think it is a matter of simply saying you are ready or not. I have been in the police service for 33 years. Anyone can look at my CV: it speaks for itself.” Williams has already acted as Police Commissioner five times.Asked if he will apply, once again, for the substantive post, Williams said, “I have not given it any consideration, that is the distant future. Right now I am with the present and the problems we have.”

Of Williams, the PSC yesterday said, “In arriving at its decision the Commission gave careful and deliberate consideration to the suitability of eligible officers and it was unanimously decided that Mr Williams is the most suitable officer to perform the duties of Commissioner of Police at this point in time pending the permanent filling of the office.”

The PSC did not name the other two candidates who were reportedly considered for the post. However, PSC chairman Professor Ramesh Deosaran said two officers, of the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), were interviewed.

Williams’ installation into the post of Acting Police Commissioner marks the second time in four years that the country will have a top cop whose appointment is not on a permanent basis. He follows in the footsteps of acting Police Commissioner since James Philbert.

The PSC said yesterday that it has started the same recruitment process, which resulted in Gibb’s appointment in the first place, afresh, raising the prospect, yet again, of substantial delays to the filling of the post.

“The Commission has today instructed the Director of Personnel Administration (DPA) to invoke the provisions of Legal Notice no 102 (The Commissioner of Police and Deputy Commissioner of Police (Selection Process) Order 2009) to ensure that the offices of Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of Police occasioned by the resignation of Dr Dwayne Gibbs and Mr Jack Ewatski as Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner respectively are filled permanently in the earliest possible time.”

Deosaran said the DPA will be called upon to contract a specialist firm to recruit candidates and advertise the post. While there were concerns over having foreign candidates for the post, which will see the post-holder work with a largely local police force, Deosaran said the PSC could not limit the recruitment process.

“We have to act within the regulations set out under the law,” he said.

“This is going to take more than six months. The DPA will have to recruit a firm to assess applicants and a list will be sent for us to vet and then sent to the Parliament.”

Asked if a foreign firm, such as Penn State University, would be retained as they were on the last occasion, Deosaran said this was a matter for the DPA. He said the PSC could not ask the DPA to limit the candidates to only locals.

“We have to work within the regulations and choose the best candidate in the interest of the country,” he said.

Asked who the other two candidates considered by the PSC at a meeting held yesterday were, Deosaran said, “I cannot remember right now. They were two ACPs.” He said the PSC would not recruit new Deputy Commissioners to replace Williams and Ewatski until after August 7.

“We will have to wait until August 7 and then we will fill the other two vacancies,” he said.

Currently, apart from Williams and Ewatski, the third Deputy Commissioner is Mervyn Richardson.

The last recruitment process which resulted in the appointment of Gibbs and Ewatski, according to Deosaran, cost $3 million.

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