Former member of the Police Service Commission (PSC), Martin George, is agreeing with the Opposition Leader that changes to the process for selecting a Commissioner of Police being proposed by Government, may need some revision, especially to ensure the independence of the PSC, itself.
One of the new amendments has the PSC recruiting candidates and creating a merit list, which is then submitted to the President, instead of having the names of the highest-ranked candidates brought before the Parliament for debate.
Opposition Leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, notes that the 2021 Order does not give the President the discretion to determine which candidate’s name is brought first, and that is cause for concern.
“Who selects which candidate name will be nominated as the CoP? Is it the President, now acting in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet, to submit names to the Parliament?” the Opposition Leader asks.
“What this government is trying to do is to force the Commission to nominate all persons on the merit list and prevent the Commission from nominating who the Commission thinks is best suited for appointment,” she argues.
Speaking on today’s edition of Guardian Media’s “The Morning Brew”, Martin George admits that the process, as it currently stands, is long and arduous, and any move to simplify procedure and make selection less convoluted is welcome.
However, George says the Opposition Leader may be right to flag concerns with the new amendments and warns that just as in the past with the current selection process, litigation could be brought against the new one being proposed.
“In a sense, what you really have reduced the Police Service Commission to now is basically a recruitment agency,” he points out.
“It is similar to those high-profile recruitment agencies that go out and create a short list and they submit it to you with the pros and cons, and then you—the employer or the company—will decide whom you will choose as your CEO. That really is what will be the net effect of these changes,” the former PSC member explains.
The Opposition Leader also flagged that the President does not have the powers to make selections to the list. George, however, has concerns with the clause in the new rule that says persons could be invited to apply, warning that it could open up a can of worms.
“Is it that here will be a mass advertisement?” he queries. “Is it that in addition to the public advertisements, the Commission can privately invite selected individuals and say, ‘Listen, I am inviting you, John Brown, to apply for this position because we favour you’, or ‘We want you to be one of the persons considered’? Is it that there will be private invitations to apply? Because there is nothing in newly proposed rule that limits it to only public invitations,” he observes.
Martin George says he is closely monitoring these developments, and, like the Opposition Leader, he also welcomes further commentary on the matter from civil society.
The former PSC member also is advising the current group of Commissioners to pay close attention to a 2019 Privy Council ruling on the selection of a Police Commissioner in Jamaica.
He notes the lawsuit was brought against the Attorney General of Jamaica and that country’s Police Service Commission, by Jamaicans for Justice, who had urged the Jamaican PSC to do comprehensive investigations and intensive background checks into Police Commissioner candidates, especially when negative elements of their character are revealed. The Privy Council upheld the position of Jamaicans for Justice.