Since the curious “voluntary” early retirement of Commissioner Vernon Francois last year, the RSLPF has been fronted by Acting Commissioner Errol Alexander. In addition to a vacancy for the post of commissioner, there are several vacancies in the executive ranks of the RSLPF. In fact, except for one confirmed Assistant Commissioner of Police in the person of Frances Henry, almost everyone, from assistant superintendent, is acting in their position.
Notwithstanding that Frances Henry is the only confirmed and most senior officer in years of service among the executive core, clearly she has been rejected and humiliated by the current government. She had been acting deputy commissioner for a few months but just when she was reasonably expecting to be confirmed, she was without explanation ordered back to her substantive rank, with her subordinate Superintendent Moncherry being appointed her supervisor, as Acting Deputy.
In a desperate attempt to normalize the situation, the Public Service Commission late last year advertised vacancies, with set qualifications for assistant superintendent, superintendent, assistant commissioner and commissioner. Strangely, there was no advertisement for the post of deputy, notwithstanding the fact that Deputy Alexander, the current Acting Commissioner, is due for pre-retirement leave around April this year. This means that there will be two vacancies for deputy. Could it be that the deputies have been surreptitiously chosen without advertisement?
In response to the advertisement, several officers applied for the different positions. The feedback from the PSC proved to be very worrisome, confusing and suspicious. Several of the most senior, most experienced and competent officers, who incidentally met all the qualifications set by the employer, received letters notifying them they had not been “shortlisted” for interviews. Even more perplexing was the fact that while the cited senior officers received letters saying they had been cast aside, several juniors, among them some who did not meet the advertised requirements, were invited to attend interviews.
In response, ASP Brian Samuel sought a judicial review and an injunction to stay the process. This matter is down to be heard in open court this month. But upon the first calling of the matter, the PSC informed the court they had decided not to make any appointments. Instead, they planned to re-advertise the vacancies. However, they advertised only the post of commissioner—with drastically changed requirements. At least in some quarters there is the strong suspicion that the required qualifications were modified to keep one targeted officer out of the running. Following, the qualifications set down in the first and second advertisements:
• First advertised qualifications and experience: Master’s degree in management, business administration, law or related discipline with at least eight years in a senior management position within a police force Or: Bachelor’s degree in management or criminal justice, plus diploma or certificate in public administration or related discipline with at least ten years’ experience in a senior management position within a police force; a minimum of twelve years’ leadership experience in operational and organizational policy function; preference will be given to candidates who have completed a senior command post.
• Second advertised qualifications and experience: Master’s degree in management, business administration, criminal justice, policing, security or law; or a related discipline with management experience in the police force at Grade 16 and above; or an equivalent level of management experience in the area of security. Experience in policing or security and training in leadership will be an asset. Or: Bachelor’s degree in management, business administration, policing, security, criminal justice or law plus Diploma or Certificate in public administration with management experience in the police force at Grade 16 and above, or an equivalent level of management experience in the area of security. Experience in policing or security and training in leadership will be an asset.
However, while the action by ASP Samuel is pending, the PSC have decided to proceed with interviews. They have written to applicants inviting them to attend interviews during the month of February for the various ranks, continuing where they left off, with some senior experienced, qualified and competent officers excluded. Remarkably, a couple of sergeants have been invited to attend interviews for the rank of superintendent—three ranks above their present stations. One of those sergeants was reported in the news to be one of four people vying to contest on behalf of the SLP the Anse La Raye/Canaries seat this coming general election. More on that in another article.
In any case, if those sergeants should succeed, it would mean they were permitted to jump two ranks. Essentially, they would be appointed to supervise their current first and second level supervisors. For those not familiar with the rank structure of the RSLPF: constable; corporal; sergeant; inspector; assistant superintendent; superintendent; assistant commissioner; deputy commissioner and commissioner.
Basically, the powers that be will be taking sergeants, who are middle level supervisors, and permitting them to jump two ranks before turning them into executive level supervisors. In addition, a couple of other sergeants have been invited to jump the rank of inspector and attend interviews for assistant superintendent.
One must ask how this would play out in military and para-military organizations where the rank structure and succession planning are key elements of productivity and survival of those organizations. How would inspectors and assistant superintendents react when seeing their years of service and experience and their reasonable expectations ignored in favour of their subordinates who, as far as they are concerned, may not have even proven themselves as sergeants and, more so, openly show their involvement in politics? Will that encourage any productivity? Or will it breed resentment, apathy, rebellion or outright war?
On 17 October, 2015 the STAR featured an article entitled “Police Moles Targeted”. It warned about trouble brewing in the force that, if not resolved quickly, could result in bloodshed. The article revealed that some members of the police force suspected colleagues of spying on them on the orders of certain government ministers, another fall-out from IMPACS.
A follow-up, obviously well-researched article on 7 November, 2015 entitled “It’s Time To Heal Festering Police Wounds!” cited several examples of police spying on police. Also cited were incidents of police officers “accidentally” injuring their colleagues. The article recalled the fatal shooting of Superintendent Alphonse that was blamed on escaped convicts in no position to defend themselves. It later turned out that the weapon used had belonged to a high-ranking police officer!
In the present circumstances, many police officers are wondering if there is an official plan to force the police into war with itself. Farfetched? Maybe. But then why is the whole IMPACS matter being allowed further to fester? Most of my police friends see Prime Minister Kenny Anthony—say they are crazy if you wish, and you could be right—as largely responsible for the current state of the force. We are waiting impatiently to see the death list that he claims he saw with his own eyes in 2011.
Saint Lucia is sitting on a time bomb fuelled by reckless politicians. Must it take bullets from the least expected quarters to drive that home to our unconcerned citizens? When even visiting diplomats can see our justice system is “totally broken”, when citizens, including the police, cannot count on a fair court hearing, what’s left if not wall-to-wall chaos?