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Know your place!

Anyone who has ever paid even scant attention to a movie about a military or paramilitary organisation will know that the chain of command works from the top down and complaints from the bottom up.

Imagine my surprise, disgust really, that a police force which is nearly 180 years old just doesn’t seem to get that. In this day and age you have a subordinate officer at war with his commissioner and a Police Service Commission that clearly does not know its place and has failed to read the contents of the Police Act.

Section 8 of the Police Act, Cap. 167 states that “the Commissioner of Police shall have command and superintendence of the Force, and shall be responsible to the Governor-General for the efficient administration and governance of the Force and for the proper expenditure of all public moneys appropriated for the service thereof”.

Section 9 of the Police Act goes on to provide that “the Deputy Commissioner of Police shall act as assistant to the Commissioner in the performance of his duties in respect of the Force and may, during the absence or incapacity of the Commissioner or when so authorised by him, do or suffer any act or thing which may by law be done by the Commissioner”.

As to other senior members of the force, section 10 adds that “Subject to this Act and to the regulations, the duties of every Assistant Commissioner and Superintendent of the Force shall be such as may from time to time be determined by the Commissioner”.

In law we first look at the natural and ordinary meaning of the words used and only if that is unclear do we proceed to use other methods of interpretation. Now even without resorting to any of the rules of legal or statutory interpretation, if one applies basic comprehension skills to the sections cited above, then it means that the commissioner is large and in charge and the deputy merely helps him and only takes control when ordered to do so by the commissioner himself or upon the commissioner’s absence from office.

Nowhere is this chain more evident than in Regulations 5 and 6 of the Police (Discipline) Regulations. The first line of complaint is the officer-in-charge of the station, division or department “who shall then report the matter to the Deputy Commissioner for the information of the Commissioner”. The commissioner (not any of his subordinates) is then called upon to act.

The Police Service Commission is a body established by section 91 of the Constitution. Section 96 makes it clear however that the “power to make appointments to offices of the Police Force and to remove and to exercise disciplinary control over persons holding or acting in such offices, is hereby vested in the Governor-General, acting in accordance with the advice of the Police Service Commission”.

I attended a public educational institution where the first school rule was that “a breach of commonsense is a breach of the school rules”. It was a catchall for any omission or act of idiocy that was not specifically addressed by the other rules.

I do not know any of the members of the Police Service Commission and frankly it’s not necessary information, but I do know that to ask a subordinate officer for his recommendations when the person with the ultimate authority has already done his duty, is not only discourteous but petty.

Whatever the reasons for the breach, the point is that the commissioner has already been lawfully appointed to his post by the Governor General and the provisions of sections 8 and 9 apply to everyone including the commission. The fact that the commission is a constitutionally appointed body simply gives them security of tenure, it does not and cannot give them leave to do whatever they want, however they want and in breach of statute and established rules of practice and procedure.

Constant litigation over nonsense brings the force into disrepute and lowers it in the estimation of the members of the public. When disrespect for the force becomes rampant the society will become lawless. Lest we fall within the ranks of the banana republics, someone might wish to ask the Governor General to have a not-so-quiet word with all concerned.

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