Safeguarding the independence of the police  

For the first time since he was forced into early retirement by the Police Service Commission (PSC) four years ago on the terse explanation that it was “in the public interest”, former Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin has broken his silence to speak publicly on certain issues affecting the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF).

While the former top cop did not make any direct accusations in an exclusive interview with Barbados TODAY, carefully choosing to speak in general terms because he has a case challenging the PSC decision pending before the law courts, anyone reading between the lines could easily figure out that some kind of political interference was involved.

Noting that the reason for his removal had not been fully explained to the Barbadian public, Mr Dottin promised to speak after his case has been determined by the High Court. However, the suggestion of political interference in the police force, which has long been the subject of speculation even before Mr Dottin’s time, raises some troubling questions. Safeguarding the independence of a key institution as the Royal Barbados Police Force ought to be an issue of paramount importance.

Mr Dottin, who described himself as strong believer in the independence of the police commissioner, spoke of subversion of the promotion process, and acknowledged experiencing problems in freely doing his job.

“The powers that be need to be sensitive to these matters. There are matters that are within the domain of the police commissioner and the commissioner needs to be given a free hand to lead his organization,” he said.

Mr Dottin’s comments surely rekindle memories of a famous statement made by one of his predecessors back in the mid-1980s. The remark, which was interpreted by the Barbadian public as a veiled complaint about political interference, was subsequently popularized when it became the theme of a well-known calypso hit, entitled Me Hands Tied, by ten-times monarch Red Plastic Bag.

Why would politicians want to meddle in business of the police force or the wider public service? A possible explanation is that many politicians are inherently insecure and therefore suspicious, especially of persons holding key positions with whom they have to work, more so if they have doubts about the loyalty of such persons. Loyalty in this case quite often means cut from the same partisan political cloth.

This behaviour is probably dictated by a recognition that elected holders of public office exercise power and authority at the pleasure of the people which can easily change overnight. It so happens that today’s political hero can easily become tomorrow’s political villain. Political interference, which aims to exert control, is therefore an attempt by the politician at self-preservation. The issue, however, is that such often is not in the public interest.

One of the most controversial issues towards the end of Mr Dottin’s tenure was related to promotion. His recommendations were rejected by the PSC which put forward its own list. Fourteen officers recommended for promotion by Mr Dottin have since sued the PSC over the decision. The retired police chief contends that something has to be fundamentally wrong with any policy that ignores the commissioner’s input in relation to promotions.

“I don’t think that anybody outside of the force has all of the information necessary to make intelligent responses to issues of promotion in the absence of full input from the commissioner,” Mr Dottin told Barbados TODAY. “I think that is a very dangerous practice and it undermines the leadership of the commissioner. There has been some of that and it needs to be stamped out.”

If the police commissioner’s hands are indeed tied, then Barbadians ought to demand that they be untied and that arrangements be put in place to guarantee the independence of this key public office. Indeed, the degree of independence, once a police chief passes the litmus test of integrity, should be comparable in certain respects to that of the Director of Public Prosecutions who is insulated from political interference.

How can the public be truly expected to have confidence in the police force if there is a perception that the administration is influenced, not by the requirements of law and order, but partisan political considerations which can have a demoralizing effect? For the sake of good governance, the public must be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt about the integrity of the police force which, like Caesar’s wife, must be above suspicion.

3 Responses to Safeguarding the independence of the police  

  1. Carson C Cadogan August 16, 2017 at 8:28 am

    The only time that the Independence was of the Royal Barbados Police Force was jeopardised was under the Barbados Labour Party administration.

    One of the most egregious acts of the Police force which the current Govt. had to set right was the division which was spying on and tapping the phones of Bajans not for security reasons but to pass on information to the Barbados Labour Party.

    They had David Thompson’s phone among others phones tapped.

    Now why did they do that?

    • John Everatt August 16, 2017 at 3:15 pm

      The DPP was not fully independent under this government. He was a avid golfer along with the politicians and moneyed people if you get what I mean. There was a policeman who murdered several people on the street in broad day light observed by witnesses. He has been out on bail all this time with no case brought against him. Could this be collusion? Mr. Cadogan seems to be under the impression that the DLP is the best thing since sliced bread. It almost makes me think that there must be something in it for him.

  2. Donild Trimp August 17, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    The backbiting and infighting within the RBPF tells me that black people are not ready for the big leagues.

    Under the leadership of STOUTE, the RBPF was a gem of an organization.

    Under the leadership of FARMER, the RBPF was a gem of an organization.

    Why is it that as soon as blacks gains full control of anything, the whole thing falls apart?

    Can someone tell me what is wrong with black people?


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