Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said yesterday that the current state of affairs in which the country is without both a Commissioner of Police and a Police Service Commission was not a “planned situation... but it is not without a solution”.
It is the first time since Independence that the country has found itself in this predicament.
The Prime Minister said: “The Deputy Commissioner McDonald Jacob is now the most senior ranked officer in charge of all other officers in the Service. As you would have heard me say, weeks ago, at a Saturday press conference, that an error was made and it will have certain consequences which would have been sorted out in the court after the various conflicting legal opinions were advanced. That has now happened.
“It is now for the President to make notifications to the Parliament to fill the existing vacancies so that the new Commission can follow the law, as clarified, in appointing person/s to serve in the offices of Commissioner of Police and Deputy Commissioner of Police.
“The Government will ensure that such notifications whenever they arrive in the Parliament, will be treated with the utmost despatch. It will be for the (new) Commission to follow the clear pathway to making any and all appointments, substantive or acting as they (Commission) deem necessary.”
Hinds: Jacob in charge
Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds said yesterday “the learned judge (Justice Nadia Kangaloo) ruled that the appointment of Gary Griffith by the Police Service Commission to the position of acting Commissioner of Police was not in keeping with Section 123 of the Constitution and was therefore declared invalid, with effect from August 18, 2021, when such appointment was made”. Hinds said Justice Kangaloo’s decision also impacted the appointment of McDonald Jacob as acting Commissioner of Police, “which appointment now also stands invalid”.
“In effect this means that while there is a vacancy in the post of Commissioner of Police, Deputy Commissioner of Police McDonald Jacob, by virtue of his being the most senior police officer in the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, remains in charge of the Police Service from this substantive office (of Deputy CoP), until such time as a Commissioner of Police is appointed in accordance with the now settled law,” he said.
Hinds said that as Minister of National Security and on behalf of the Government, he wanted to give the public the assurance that the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service will continue to execute its responsibility to the people of Trinidad and Tobago “without let or hindrance, as it is so mandated under the laws of Trinidad and Tobago”.
Lawyers seek clarification
The effect of Justice Kangaloo’s ruling means that every time an acting appointment for the CoP is to be made, there must be parliamentary approval. In order for Jacob to act in the future, his name will now have to come to Parliament. Government was grappling with the implications yesterday.
Up to 2006 the PM had a veto power over appointments to hold and appointments to act. This was changed in 2006. By Legal Notice 2009, the law allowed for acting arrangements in which a Deputy Commissioner of Police could be appointed to act without reference to Parliament. In 2021, a new Legal Notice 183, just before the expiration of Gary Griffith’s contract, was laid in Parliament purporting to change the arrangements and methodology for the appointment of a Commissioner and an acting Commissioner of Police.
Paragraph 4 of the 2021 Order allowed a person whose contract was about to end or had already ended to be appointed to act as Commissioner of Police. This adjustment to the law allowed Griffith to be appointed to act. This Order was struck down by the court yesterday, holding that it was unconstitutional.
The Counsel for the AG is seeking to save that portion of the 2021 Order that commits the PolSC to shorten the procedure for the selection of a Commissioner, which was also introduced by way of Legal Notice 183. Sources said yesterday that two legal teams—counsel representing the Attorney General and the Counsel representing the PolSC—last evening wrote to the Judicial Support Officer for Justice Kangaloo seeking clarification on the ruling—specifically whether the entire 2021 Order was struck down or whether it was only paragraph 4 of the 2021.
The letter which was sent by the legal teams to the Judge was obtained by the Express. It stated: “We have just received... the Order of the Court which includes at paragraph 4, the following Order: ‘It is declared that the Commissioner of Police and Deputy Commissioner of Police (Selection Process) Order, 2021 is unconstitutional and void being contrary to or ultra vires the provisions of Section 123 of the Constitution’.
The letter continued: “The Commissioner of Police and Deputy Commissioner of Police (Selection Order) 2021 (the 2021 Order) only deals with acting appointments at paragraph 4 thereof. Paragraphs 1-3 of the 2021 Order dealt with the procedure for substantive appointments. No party made any submission as to the invalidity of Section 1-3 of the 2021 Order.”
“During the delivery of the oral ruling today (yesterday), Counsel for the Attorney General specifically asked for clarification as to the specific Order which was being made in relation to the 2021 Order and the Court expressly advised that only paragraph 4 of the 2021 Order was being struck down on the basis that it was unnecessary in light of the procedure set out in Section 123 (2-5) of the Constitution.
In light of this express oral clarification, it seems then that the Order which we have received has been issued in error and contrary to the clear ruling of Madam Justice Kangaloo. We ask then that the Order be corrected and re-issued as a matter of urgency,” the letter stated.