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New CoP, same crime problem
Stephen Williams has been here before. Appointed to act as Police Commissioner in circumstances which did not offer him as the first choice for the role. Compounding things this time around are the new challenges he will face in the wake of the sudden resignations of Police Commissioner Dwight Gibbs and Deputy Commissioner Jack Ewatski.
Their departure doesn’t make the job of Commissioner of Police any easier, despite pledges of support from Police Service Social and Welfare Association president Anand Ramesar who offered many of the same platitudes to Mr Gibbs when he took the role.
Over the last two years, Mr Ramesar has made it clear that he intends to preserve the status quo of the rank and file of the Police Service with the militancy of a trade unionist. That’s going to require some special approaches to navigate. Mr Williams is also going to have to reconcile his efforts over the last 24 months as part of the leadership of the police force with the avowed disapproval of Minister of Security Jack Warner for the core of that effort, the 21st Century Policing Initiative.
One champion of the project is Daphne Bartlett, President of the San Fernando Business Association, who has publicly urged the acting CoP to continue the project, describing it as one that brought dignity to the service, improved public confidence and reduced corruption in the police service. The new Commissioner of Police will also have to contend with a line minister who is keen to have a say in policing efforts.
Balancing National Security Minister Jack Warner’s enthusiasm to micromanage policing efforts without yielding the authority and independence implicit in his office will also demand tact. But for the most part, acting CoP Stephen Williams will need to meet the expectations of the public that his time in office will be spent on meaningful initiatives that will lead to real world reductions in crime.
With a public thumbs up from Information Officer Wayne Mystar at a press conference on behalf of fellow officers and the stated support of the irascible Mr Ramesar, Mr Williams may appear to enjoy a headstart on his predecessors, but the challenges of bringing palpable improvements to the public profile of the police service remain monumental.
Some of Mr Ramesar’s concerns suggest a need for urgent investigation and action. It’s simply untenable for a large number of officers to be in extended acting appointments as the Police Service Social and Welfare president claims. But bringing satisfaction to officers in the police service remains only part of the job.
Whatever its name, an initiative designed to improve the efficiency of officers, enhance their public presence and make the police service more open to its public are all projects that should continue in some form.
The new top cop must work to forge a relationship with the public based on improving confidence in police officers, making officer response to crimes in progress real time and significantly improving the quality of investigation and crime detective work.
This will, most likely, represent an uphill climb for the new CoP. Any concerted, vigorous effort to achieve these goals is unlikely to win Mr Williams new friends among those officers who are happier with a more relaxed approach to protecting and serving.
If Stephen Williams wants to lay claim to this leadership role, and it’s hard to imagine that his career so far was designed to lead anywhere else, he must accept that serious work in the role will quickly erode early celebrations for a local man back in charge. The CoP must prove willing, in six short months, to confront the failings of the police service and prioritise significant changes that will drive efforts at improving the quality of policing and the effective use of existing manpower.
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