Dottin breaks silence – The conclusion

Former Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin has been speaking out for the first time since being forced out of office four years ago by the Police Service Commission (PSC) “in the public interest.”

In an extensive interview with Barbados TODAY at his residence on Friday, Dottin, who last month lost his request to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) for special leave to appeal his removal, weighed in on a range of burning issues including promotions in the force, gun-crime, gangs, police morale and leadership in the force and Government.

Barbados TODAY now provides the final part of an edited version of that one-hour interview conducted by Emmanuel Joseph.

When we ended in the previous installment, the former commissioner was talking about his forced removal from office in 2013, a matter which he said he would speak about at length after the court case is settled.

Q. How do you think it has all impacted the force?

A. Perhaps it is part of the instability that I spoke about, because over many years, change in leadership and so on has been evolutionary. That is to say, it has been planned and people received their training and exposure and they moved logically into position. But what has happened in recent time is that we have had people that have assumed positions that maybe they were not well prepared for.  And remember I spoke of the complexity of the police force. but these matters need to be solved. I live in Barbados, I want the best for Barbados and instability of any kind is worrying and I would love to have the force settled and such that it can play its role in protecting the people of Barbados.

Q. Do you miss being Commissioner?

A. It was a busy life. I make sure that I have interests outside of policing such that my life is rich and fulfilling, but nonetheless I maintain a keen interest in issues relating to law enforcement. It is not that I miss it to the stage that I hanker over it. I worked hard, I gave of my best and I can look back with pride over the things that I have achieved and the strides that the force has made. And I don’t want to be selfish in this regard. Some of the initiatives that I introduced were followed on from my predecessors. I have to tell you the force was well respected. We gave assistance on request to some of our neighbours.  So we were building our skills gradually to deal with emerging problems. So I look back and I am happy with the contribution that I have made. I wouldn’t want to put it that I missed the office as such. I have a rich life, because I have activities to keep me occupied outside of policing.

Q. Would you care to share your new vocation?

A. Not at this stage.  Perhaps that is the subject of another interview. I leveraged my many years in law enforcement, expertise and I have another training. It is not only work, it is social activities. I have a granddaughter . . . she is developing well and she is a source of pride to me. So my life is full.

Q. Have all the court issues weighed down on you. If they have, are they off your back now or do some still exist?

A. I would have to be forthright and say yes. It did affect me in the early stages and occasionally there are flash backs and you think about it, but like I said, if you keep busy…I have friends and activities . . . people who are also very supportive; and there is also family which keeps you grounded. And I must thank all of my friends who supported me during the period . . . the early period, which was a shock and quite unsettling. But my friends supported me.

Q. Do you think we need to call in foreign help right now to assist us with the current crime situation?

A. I don’t think so. I am really serious about it. Some of the initiatives I alluded to earlier, the Government of the day spent millions of dollars trying to get these initiatives up and running. I can attest to their use. It is a case, I feel, of dealing with the particular issues that we have, in organization, inter-agency approach and so on; the more efficient use of intelligence. The fact that you are asking me about these things suggests there is some shortfall too in public communication. I think that the authorities, whether they are at the law enforcement level or the policy level, there needs to be more communication with Barbadians to let them know of the difficulties, the challenges and how they are going to be resolved and what are the steps that we want Barbadians to take in support of the strategy and so on.

 I must tell you though that when I was in office, whenever we had a particularly difficult problem or certain crime, it is a matter that I would raise with my detectives. In some cases, I was being provocative and it would make them very angry, but in the end they would always produce the results. But we know this country, we have some fine police officers, it just needs to be put together; it just needs to be well organized, it just needs to use the resources to address these matters.

Q. Your predecessor Orville Durant in an interview with me this week said, the problem of crime needs leadership. How do you respond to that?

A. Well I don’t know what context in which he spoke . . . .

Q. He was suggesting that the Attorney General needs to take the lead and run with the information that they have…that they need to get the intelligence and implement policies because it [the solution] goes past the Police Commissioner; it has to be a more policy-driven situation.

A. I would say it needs leadership at different levels. The Attorney General cannot take tactical decisions; he takes the policy and strategic decisions and so on. There needs to be very close collaboration between the leadership of the force and, Mr Durant mentioned it, the Attorney General, what I called the policy level.  And so, out of this collaboration, the discussion and so on, there would be reinforcing [strategies] because there are particular initiatives or inputs that the Commissioner at a tactical level may need that the Attorney General can provide. I give you a particular example. When I assumed leadership of the force, we had a massive problem with police transport. Less than 50 per cent of the police fleet was operative; and we had a difficulty; the force has to be mobile and in a paper I took to the then Government, I spoke about that initiative…the problems that we had. And out of that discussion that we had with the policymakers, I remember, we were immediately granted $25 million to replace the fleet; and not only to replace the fleet, we also said to Government it makes no sense in driving the fleet into the ground, driving to such an extent that after a couple of years, all you have is scrap. Why don’t we renew the fleet every three years? And it was accepted. I mean, you look around Barbados now, you see the condition of the vehicles; if you pass by the police station you can see the number of vehicles we have. So that is what I am talking about leadership at different levels.  At the tactical level of the Commissioner, the Commissioner speaking to the policymakers as to the initiatives and inputs that he requires and the policymakers responding to these issues.  So yes, I agree with my predecessor that there needs to be leadership.  But leadership at those different levels.

Q.  He also said Barbados was too small a country not to be manageable. He said the crime is manageable…this is a two-by-three country. It shouldn’t be that difficult.

A. I know Mr Durant well. You would notice that he is a very blunt speaker.  I tend to be a little more diplomatic. I share those views as well. He is a firm believer too in the independence of the police commissioner which I support. I don’t want to be controversial, but I hear sometimes about the difficulties that commissioners experience.  I experienced some of them as well.  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.  It is an issue too that I raised recently, and it is to do with promotions. I need to reemphasize this matter. If the view is that the commissioner is not to have a full role…I mean a full role in the promotion of his subordinates, if that is gaining currency, it is a flawed policy and it needs to be addressed.  There are certain mechanisms in our Constitution that have to deal with how public servants are treated in relation to promotion and discipline and so on. But I feel that some of these mechanisms are being subverted and at sometime in the future I will speak to them, because I think that they are fundamental, particularly to an organization like the force. 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. I think it is a matter that is bearing heavily on the force.  I fully support what Orville is saying about our country. We are much too small to have these issues, or maybe it’s because of our size that we get these problems. I think it is refreshing that he speaks with such candour on these matters and I hope that very shortly too, that I will be able to make my own contribution to these issues because I think that Barbadians need to speak up about some of these issues. We all live in Barbados and we want the best for Barbados.

Q. So during your time, would you say there was political interference?

A. I wouldn’t want to at this time of the problems that we are having, excite opinions about that. I would merely say that leadership in the public sector is a very difficult undertaking. I will deal with my own responses to that in due course.

Q. But you did say the system was being subverted and suggesting that this might have been done by people outside, who would be the people outside?

A. I think I was as specific as I wanted to be at this stage.

Q. This is a question that concerns me as a citizen. That is why I am pushing the question.

A. A friend of mine was saying to me that there are red lines that should not be crossed and I agree. He was talking about situations where subordinates in the force would appeal to bodies outside of the force over the head of the commissioner. I think that is a very dangerous practice and it undermines the leadership of the commissioner. There have been some of that and it needs to be stamped out. Policymakers and those persons who have responsibility for making decisions and people who would want to get certain outcomes outside of the traditional way or accepted way, they have to give them short shrift when they seek to engage and have that type of result through those means.

Q. How is a police commissioner appointed?

A. I think it is constitutional. Just like a permanent secretary. A recommendation is made by the Police Service Commission to the Prime Minister who approves and then he is appointed by His Excellency, the Governor-General.

Q. The bucks stops where . . . who has the final say?

A. I don’t think a commissioner could be appointed without the concurrence of the Prime Minister.

Q. Any message going forward for Barbadians now gripped in this fear?

A. I think as in any vibrant democracy we have to let our voices be heard and I think that we also have to hold our institutions to account; I don’t think we should accept being so short in this regard; and I think that we also need to support the authorities in any relevant initiatives that they will use to bring this particular outbreak under control and also to maintain stability across the country.

There is one other element that I perhaps could have mentioned earlier. And there is the matter of engagement with the community. I think that law enforcement needs to engage more with the communities. It does bear rich dividends…hear their responses and so on.

I can give you so many examples. I don’t know if you remember the difficulties that we had in New Orleans, the shootings and so on. I believe that New Orleans is a different place now based on the initiative that we introduced. You remember the evening that I did a walk through and I met with residents and I saw the fear and people actually shuddered in their homes; and as there was a more forceful approach by the force from a law enforcement perspective
. . . and also there were some community police officers who worked with that community to deal with the issues. And you could remember how we took the mobile unit in the area. And as a matter of course, every evening after I left work, I would drive through that community to see how things were going. And it was really gratifying to see that people were coming out; people were walking their children and the community was coming back to normality.

So engagement of communities, particularly communities that are under siege is important. I think that law
enforcement agencies have to earn the trust of communities and I think that communities should also reach out to law enforcement as well and work with them for their own mutual security.

That community engagement should continue and intensify.

Source: (EJ)

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