The average person would be confused by the different outcomes in the disciplinary and criminal investigations involving Acting Police Commissioner Irwin Hackshaw based on information gathered by the Police Complaints Authority (PCA).
The PCA’s investigation into certain financial transactions by ACP Hackshaw had found sufficient grounds for a disciplinary case and, it being a professional matter, handed it over to the Commissioner of Police to pursue. The TTPS concluded that ACP Hackshaw had no case of professional misbehaviour to answer, and cleared him.
The same set of circumstances have now resulted in the ACP’s suspension from duties, presumably pending the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions on whether criminal charges should be laid against ACP Hackshaw.
If, as is expected, the Police Service Commission meets today on Commissioner Griffith’s conduct, one would expect these contradictory outcomes and other matters which have dominated public discussion for the duration of the commissioner’s tenure to come up for discussion. Surely, chairman Bliss Seepersad and her team could not possibly be interested only in the public contretemps between Commissioner Griffith and the Prime Minister, when far more substantial issues have failed to stir them out of lethargy.
The commission should know that the public’s eyes are on them and have been for some time, observing their complete lack of accountability for their own failures. They have presided over a failure to fill staffing positions critical to the effective functioning of the TTPS, and have shown no inclination whatsoever to either intervene or help the public to understand their silence on crucial policing issues, involving, in some cases, life and death. Far from doing so, they have given Commissioner Griffith an outstanding performance evaluation indicating their full confidence in him and his methods of policing.
Against that background, it would be laughable if the Police Service Commission were now to decide to get tough on Commissioner Griffith because the Prime Minister is upset with the police chief about a matter in which he may not even be on solid legal ground.
What we are witnessing is yet another example of the lack of moral authority of public figures and institutions to hold each other to account. In the latest controversy arising out of the Bayside Towers incident and the dispute over the legal definition of public versus private property, no one is without blame. The by-standing public has to choose between a sordid public dispute, an unsound legal position and, with the Police Service Commission in the mix, a comatose institution.
Whatever his views on the political accountability of the Commissioner of Police, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley would be well-advised to focus more on the quality of the consultations that he, as Prime Minister, held with the President in selecting persons for the Police Service Commission and, even more importantly, on the institutional arrangements for managing the Police Service Commission and the Public Service, Teaching Service and Judicial and Legal Service commissions.
The dysfunction goes far deeper than individuals and is embedded in the institutional arrangements for governance which render even the best people impotent in their function. Deal with root causes instead of trading fire over symptoms.