It is unlikely anyone will have forgotten the hoopla when in October 2014 Assistant Commissioner of Police Frances Henry was boosted to the post of Acting Deputy Commissioner—the first local female police officer to have attained such status. For many, Henry’s elevation represented how far we as a nation had come with respect to gender equality.
Henry certainly had every reason to take pride in her achievement and to thank the authorities for having recognized her dedication to duty all these years. A veteran of over thirty years’ service, she gave this opportunity to serve as deputy her best shot, with the reasonable expectation that she would actually be the first female to serve in the substantive rank of Deputy Commissioner of Police. Her next reasonable expectation would naturally have been to be Saint Lucia’s first female Commissioner of Police. Or even the first acting female commissioner.
However, all such hopes proved in vain. On All Fools Day 2015, in contradiction of all the hype that had accompanied her elevation, she was quietly dropped to her substantive rank of Assistant Commissioner. Apparently her earlier promoters failed to notice. At any rate, there was from them, as our deputy prime minister likes to say, not a word, not a word, not a word. Oh how fickle we are!
Her effective demotion must’ve come as a shock to the hardworking Frances Henry. Ms Henry was, and still is, the only confirmed Assistant Commissioner of Police, senior to all other possible challengers. In addition, as deputy, her immediate supervisor would have been Commissioner Francois. Incidentally, Mr. Francois never once indicated he found her performance below par. By memo dated 15th January, 2015 Commissioner Francois recommended that the Public Service Commission permit Henry to continue acting as deputy. His recommendation fell on deaf ears. Instead Henry was made a subordinate of her subordinate, Superintendent Moncherry. She was also summarily transferred from the crime division and charged with responsibility for Territorial Policing (district police stations)—a demotion in the eyes of many.
Henry devoted four years or so as assistant commissioner in charge of the crime division. During her tenure the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force made significant headway. The solved-crime rate reached its highest for both summary and serious offenses. The less said about the current crime superintendent, the better. While appearing recently on a TV show he left the impression he had no idea what is a cold case.
Some pertinent questions need to be answered by the relevant authorities: who changed Commissioner Francois’ recommendation so as to sideline Frances Henry? Did Francois’ recommendation ever make it to the Public Service Commission? What roles did politicians play in this matter? When the commissioner of police submits a recommendation for appointment by the PSC, is it lawful for anyone to interfere with it?
I am reliably informed that, in the not too distant future, we can expect legal precedent to be set on those issues, a superintendent of police having filed a particular lawsuit against the government. I am also reliably informed that there are other officers with similar or perhaps worse grievances whose lawyers are monitoring the filed case.
The word is that the government intends to persuade Frances Henry, currently on leave, to take early retirement. Will it be an offer too good to refuse?