|Williams gets warning |
By JULIEN NEAVES Friday, January 10 2014
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Hot seat: Police Commissioner Stephen Williams sits before members of the Police Service Commission to account for his measures to combat crime and ou...
THE POLICE Service Commission (PSC) has reprimanded Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams that his tardiness in submitting reports to them will no longer be tolerated and will affect his appraisal as his tenure finishes at the end of this month.
“We have complained to him repeatedly. This morning we increased the seriousness of our concerns to suggest that it would implicate the appraisal that we are empowered to exercise. So that is how far we have reached,” said PSC chairman Professor Ramesh Deosaran.
He was speaking at a media briefing following a meeting between Williams and the PSC yesterday at PSC offices, corner of Pasea Main Road and Churchill Roosevelt Highway, Tunapuna.
Deosaran said the meeting was called due to the several public concerns about the escalation of crime, especially the murder rate which, according to Newsday’s tally, has hit a record 22 for January.
Commission member Martin George reported the PSC informed Williams that, despite internal difficulties and challenges, he has to improve on the timeliness of his reporting.
Deosaran said some reports have been delayed for weeks and months, including one that was due in June that was received in October. He noted the PSC is empowered to ask for any special reports, besides the mandatory six month written report, but these have not been fulfilled properly.
Deosaran said another serious concern is the “disturbing absenteeism” of police officers in giving required testimony as witnesses or complainants in court.
He stressed that if these cases are dismissed, as they appear to be, by the non-appearance of policemen, “I think that is a grave injustice to both the national community and against the victims” in these matters.
George said they asked the Acting Commissioner to give a specific report on this issue as they need to see the data on the level of absenteeism and how many matters may have been dismissed and persons being discharged directly due to negligent attendance with no good reason.
“Because we think this impacts upon the credibility and faith that the public has on the entire judicial system which is of course tied into the police work. Because there is no point you detecting crimes and bringing people to the courts if at the end of the day when the prosecution comes up you are not there to give that evidence and the person walks,” he stressed.
Deosaran said the Commissioner and PSC were concerned about the giving of contracts to alleged gang members, with Williams saying this increases criminality in those areas.
He noted Williams also pointed out that those areas contain about 25 percent of the murders on the East West Corridor and 105 out of 420 murders are committed in the compact zone of Laventille/Morvant “which involve Government giving contract(s) as he said to these alleged gang leaders and other alleged criminals”.
“And we take that view very seriously and hope that that situation, that criminogenic situation, will be rectified if his allegations are true,” Deosaran said.
He recalled that Williams was asked if people are known gang members why they are not being arrested under the Anti-Gang legislation, and Williams responded they were working with the Director of Public Prosecutions to define the mechanisms to make an arrest. George said the Commissioner could not leave the society in a “conundrum” saying that known gang leaders were getting contracts but then not arresting them because of a legal lacuna.
National Security Minister Gary Griffith, who has repeatedly stated he will cut off contracts to alleged gang members, said last night he will not be able to comment without first speaking to the Commissioner to confirm his statements and added he has made his position on the issue known.
George said Williams reported he does face some challenges within his administration including manpower requirements and other issues.
“We responded by pointing out that ‘look, notwithstanding these challenges what we are looking for is the implementation of systems and procedures to ensure that in the long term these gaps and these areas are covered’...(and) at the end of the day you must show us what systems you have put in place to correct these deficiencies over the long term,” he said.
Deosaran said Williams also offered several strategies, which the PSC believes could help:
• improving his intelligence unit by having intelligence teams
• improving the training strategies to be more focused on investigation
• working more closely with the divisions and the commanders to get regular reports and to demand from them a range of accountability within their jurisdiction.
“So what he’s trying to do and which seems very favourable to us in the present circumstances is that he is tightening his administration but a matter for which he will have to report to us within the next two weeks as well as to how far he has reached with that,” Deosaran explained.
He said there seemed to be some improvement on Williams’ part but the PSC is concerned that the improvements produce “rapid results” in the public interest. On the low detection rate, George said Williams responded they were “beefing up” their Crime Scene Investigation Unit and will be making some changes to the Homicide Investigation Unit, as well as specific plans regarding improving detection of firearms, which is linked to the majority of homicides.
Questioned whether Williams will receive another six month extension Deosaran noted it was “part of their ongoing discussions” and they will reveal the result in two weeks and before January 31 when his tenure ends. If Williams receives another six month extension it will be his third since he was appointed on August 7, 2012.
Deosaran said the PSC is also looking at developing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Police Complaints Authority so they will get enough information to make an improved assessment of the Acting Commissioner of Police.
Williams spoke briefly with the media after leaving the meeting yesterday.
Questioned how he felt about the meeting he responded: “As an individual I always try to maintain some level of normalcy in relation to how I feel about things in life. I’m a thick-skinned person. I’m not shaken by most things. My commitment is to Trinidad and Tobago to do my best and I believe that is exactly what I’m doing.”
Questioned whether his “thick skin was tested” Williams said, “you do not get emotional in this office and you have to be a strong person to perform, and if you are not strong then you cannot effectively perform.”
Deosaran also called on Government and Opposition to speedily bring reform to legislation governing the appointment of a Commissioner of Police and Deputy Commissioner of Police, describing it as a “bureaucratic nightmare” and under it the country can expect an Acting Commissioner “for a long time”.
He reported that the Director of Personnel Administration had subcontracted the National Insurance Property Development Company Ltd (NIPDEC) to advertise for a firm which would assess potential applicants for the post but all the local and foreign firms that answered were deemed unsuitable, though no reason was given.
George pointed out it was more difficult to appoint a substantive Commissioner of
Police than a Chief Justice, President or Prime Minister.
Deosaran also said they would like to have jurisdiction over Assistant Commissioners of Police as well, noting succession planning is lacking in the service, so people are not promoted purely on grounds of seniority. Deosaran noted all their proposals were submitted to Government about a year ago and they are “anxiously” awaiting for some relief.