COMMENTARY: Arming The Deputy To Shoot The Commissioner

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Suspended Commissioner Wendell Robinson

by RAWLSTON POMPEY

Social behavior, attitude and mood have drastically changed. So too is organizational behavior and culture. In a hostile environment, it is has been more than ‘…survival of the fittest.’ For Police Services in the global community, it is ‘…survival by decisive leadership.’ When a Police officer comes under intense public scrutiny, it was usually for conduct deemed unprofessional or inappropriate.  When a Police Service provoked national outrage, more often than not, it was usually for ‘…unsavory conduct; …irrational decisions; or action or inaction on matters affecting public interest; …expectations and national concern.’ Negative perceptions are then entertained, while public confidence wanes, hostility increases and tension heightens, breathing animosity and contempt. These critical situations have never been easy, neither for past Commissioners, nor current Acting Commissioner Atlee Rodney. He is not only expected to show proactive leadership and give public assurances, but also take decisive action that ‘…chips fall where they may.’

PERSPECTIVE

It has been the experience that citizens had taken issue, either with its institutions, agencies and agents. Invariably, people positioned to manage or chair these institutions and agencies, have displayed more confidence in self-praising, than their ability to take responsibility, manage and lead. This commentary specifically looks at (a) …The predicament of Commissioner of Police Wendell Robinson; (b) …The investigative procedural glitches by Acting Commissioner Atlee Rodney; (c) …Difficulties in convening a trial by the Kelvin John-led 7-member Police Service Commission. Functionally, there are no existing ‘…Memoranda of Understanding.’ Moreover, the Commissioner is not subordinate to the Commission. The latter functions independently as constitutionally specified body [CO: Section 105], while the former functions in the capacity of chief law enforcement officer as provided by Statute [Police Act].

ILLITERACY AND IGNORANCE

It has been said that among the gravest of man’s enemies are ‘…Illiteracy and Ignorance.’ That which might also be added are, ‘…innocence, inexperience and subserviency.’ Slinger Francisco, ‘Mighty Sparrow,’ the world’s greatest social commentator, had long foreseen miseries for those who did not attend school, or attended school, but did not ‘…learn well.’ He may not have envisaged that those that had learned well and availed themselves of golden opportunities, would experience as much miseries as those starved of a sound education. In the social commentary ‘…Education is Essential,’ he contends that ‘…Ignorance always increases risk.’ Many may recall him imploring children in this way, ‘…Children go to school and learn well; …Otherwise, later on in life you go catch real hell; …Without an education in your head; …Your whole life would be pure misery; …You would be better off dead’ [You Tube].

KNOWLEDGE AND POWER

A person who possesses knowledge, and seeks empowerment in whatever sphere of human endeavor, whether legal or illegal, is as dangerous as a person who has been empowered to wield power without the requisite knowledge. Likened to the ‘…Secret’ contained in the Grenadian spice, it has been said that the power of man lies in his knowledge. This was accredited to Francis Bacon who reportedly said ‘…Knowledge is Power’ [1597]. In most organizations, private and public, there are vicious fights by men who, starved of knowledge had been driven by ambition and opportunism. Research has shown that third United States President, Thomas Jefferson, also equated knowledge with ‘…power; …safety and happiness’ [1743-1826]. If such equation shall be made with knowledge or contingent upon it, then ‘…cronyism’ shall never be a consideration in positioning people to chair governmental bodies and/or institutions to exercise power over people.

REASON AND CONSCIENCE

The unpredictable nature of man and the conduct exhibited, had often brought peril upon himself. Those that are charged with responsibility for ‘…leadership and superintendence’ and those charged with disciplinary control of the Police Service, shall not only be au fait with the Police Regulations, but also understand the procedures, when breaches of discipline are reported or alleged or when written complaints are received. In addressing these, knowledge, combined with the innate endowment of ‘…Reason and Conscience,’ allows for informed decisions. However, even with those endowment and intelligence, lack of sufficient knowledge has often proved disastrous. Applied to the Police Service Commission (PSC), its members, comprising six males and one female, are highly intelligent people. They came from various professional backgrounds- ‘…the legal fraternity; … law enforcement and business entities.’ They have been the nucleus of a body constitutionally charged with three functional areas within the Police Service. The Commission is purely a referral body, as it has no administrative and/or operational responsibilities for the Police Service.

FUNCTIONS – COP AND PSC

Respecting the Commissioner of Police, there are attendant powers to ‘…superintend; …command and control the Police Service [Sections 6, 22 &23: Police Act: Chapter 330]. Though the Commissioner shall make referrals to the Police Service Commission on matters of ‘…appointment; …transfer and discipline,’ administratively and operationally, he functions independent of that body. While officers holding ranks subordinate to the Commissioner of Police had been infrequently cited for breaches of Force discipline, few had been among the Gazetted officer corp. Dependent upon the nature and gravity of the breach, such officers had been called upon to retire primarily in the in the interest of the public and the Police Force, and the need to repair the damage caused to its reputation, as to maintain integrity in the services it provide to the law-abiding citizens.

ADVERSITY AND TREACHERY

In secularized societies, conduct of various forms, are exhibited. Human values have been depreciated. Man in his pursuit of pleasures often ignores foreseeable consequences. With a comparatively successful career, position and longevity of tenure, now appears to be in jeopardy, life for suspended Commissioner Wendell Robinson appears to be turning into misery. None may deny that he is as knowledgeable as he is intelligent and astute. That which he may not have envisaged, was that his alleged ‘…Sins of Secularity,’ would have brought him agony, coming face to face with organizational ‘…Adversity and Treachery.’ Accused of inappropriate behavior, when public pressure mounted for disciplinary action to be initiated against him, members of the Police Service Commission not only appeared to have become frantic, but also likened to a rudderless ship, drifted in choppy seas.

LETTER OF SUSPENSION

When the Police Service Commission (PSC) received complaints from male officers subordinate to Commissioner of Police Wendell Robinson of inappropriate conduct, its members became overwhelmed by indecision. When, by a ‘…Letter of Suspension,’ that contained complaints of …objectionable sexual advances, he may have been shocked into disbelief. With his legal knowledge, he would have known that the leadership of the Commission, a former acting puigne Judge and former superiors, had all ignored the ‘…Principles of Natural Justice.’ When the complaints were channeled to Attorney General and National Security Minister Steadroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin, it may have provoked suspicion that the Police Service Commission was attempting to exploit his office. Steering far away from the entrance to the ‘…Clare Vue Psychiatric Hospital,’ he hastily and prudently, dispatched the complaints from whence they came.

CONTINUING LEADERSHIP

Following the suspension and complying with the prescriptive constitutional provisions, the Commission sought and obtained approval of Prime Minister Gaston Browne for the appointment of an Acting Commissioner. Such an appointment was necessary for ‘…Continuing Leadership’ of the Police Service, and hence, the appointment of his Deputy Atlee Rodney was made [April 5, 2018]. Having signified his approval, a Prime Minister plays no part in the administration of the Police Service. Whether permanently, or in an acting capacity, the superintendence of the Police Service is left to the sole responsibility of the officer so appointed. Except ‘…general directions,’ appropriately given by the Minister with responsibility for the Police, a Commissioner holds no responsibility to any Minister of the Crown or Police authority. Such responsibility and obedience, are owed ‘…only to the law’ [Lord Denning: Master of the Roll: R v Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Blackburn ex parte: 1 AER: 763: 1968].

PARAGAN OF VIRTUE

The Scripture edifies that St. Paul in an address to three groups, said ‘…Each man in his own order’ [KJV: 1 Corinthians 15: 23]. In a different perspective, representative of the three groups (i) …An opportunity had arisen and a position had been bestowed; (ii) …A task had been delegated; and (iii) …A decision had been made.’ Consequent upon the suspension of Commissioner of Police Wendell Robinson, his Deputy Atlee Rodney had been appointed to act in the office of Commissioner of Police. While none may lay claim to being a ‘…Paragon of Virtue,’ within the organization, the Acting Commissioner has been known as an extoller of Christian virtues. Evidently, these may have impacted and guided his official and private life. He was known among the rank and file, to be an officer of unquestionable repute; …highly disciplined; …well-respected; …approachable; …affable and accommodating.’ Thus, it was little wonder, that he was considered for the acting appointment.

SECURITY OF TENURE

None so positioned, shall harbor illusions, and none may feel indispensable. There is no ‘…Security of Tenure.’ The instant case involving Commissioner Wendell Robinson, though suspended in a rather ‘…peculiar circumstance,’ made him the third Commissioner who were either suspended or dismissed from office. This speaks to the dreaded element of ‘…Insecurity of Tenure.’ Among the two that were suspended were former Commissioners ‘…Truehart O.M, Smith QPM [MNI Reporter: April 4, 2003] and Vere Browne [BVI News: January 15, 2015], while expatriate Canadian Gary Nelson was summarily dismissed by the ‘PSC’ [The Telegraph: August 29, 2009]. As provided in the Constitution, the former sought and obtained redress from the Public Service Board of Appeal, but was never reinstated, while the latter two sought judicial review, failed in their bid for reinstatement. As fate often dictates, the mandatory age of retirement (60 years), negative any further pursuit of justice.

INVESTIGATIVE BURDEN

Likened to a bridled gelding; the Commission had saddled and exploitatively placed the ‘…Investigative Burden’ on the Commissioner’s Deputy, now Acting Commissioner Atlee Rodney, harnessing him with three Special Constables’ into theirself-induced madness.’ Within twenty-four hours of assuming office, and perhaps,before opening the east window of the American Road Headquartered office, rumors not only saturated the media, but spread within the Police service and across the nation and region, that he was delegated investigative responsibility. Dispelling such rumors, he said, ‘…It is not legally correct; …It is not ethically correct that I would be acting in his position and at the same time investigating the matter against him’ [ABS TV: April 6, 2018]. Seven months later, when disciplinary charges were slapped against the suspended Commissioner, though members of the Commission had not reveled into a drunken stupor in the carnival troupe called ‘…Insane,’ all members appeared to have been ‘…stricken by insanity.’

MONUMENTAL INVESTIGATIVE BLUNDER

Though management theory suggests that ‘…responsibility is not transferrable,’ the Commission, in abdicating its responsibility, had undoubtedly, exploited the ‘…innocence; …ignorance or docility of the Acting Commissioner. Positionally, he may have been irrestibly enticed and inescapably entrapped. These may have impelled him to resort to a ‘…Non-Verbal Retraction’ of his media statement. This appeared to have been the juncture where the ‘PSC not only shirked its responsibilities, but also created a historical, ‘…Monumental Investigative Blunder.’  The Acting Commissioner had been sandwiched in the power-play between Commissioner Wendell Robinson and an ambivalent Police Service Commission. In ‘…Veil of Secrecy,’ he was given the most awkward assignment.

SUMMARY SUSPENSION

Legendary Jamaica and world renowned reggae artist, Robert Nestor ‘Bob’ Marley, showed no hesitation in confessing to a crime he had committed, but adamantly denied that he had committed another. In open confession he said ‘…I Shot the Sheriff,’ and strenuously denied, ‘…But I didn’t shoot the Deputy.’ Applied to ‘…Commissioner of Police Wendell Robinson and his Deputy Acting Commissioner Atlee Rodney’ fiasco, the latter who had caused disciplinary investigation into the conduct of his superior, slapped him with some five disciplinary charges, including ‘…Discreditable and Oppressive Conduct,’ may very well have ‘…Dreams to Remember’ [Otis Redding]. This makes it easy for Commission Chairman (PSC) Kelvin John to deny any involvement in the investigative process. What appears undeniable has been the ‘…Summary Suspension’ from the office of Commissioner without informing him of allegations made against him by personnel subordinate to him. 

ADMINISTRATIVE CONSEQUENCES

It has also been the experience, that people ‘…stricken by power-drunkenness,’ had invariably caused other people to suffer the worst of their judgment. Conversely, those that wielded power arbitrarily or with impunity or abdicated their responsibilities often became more of an embarrassing liability, than they were seen as an asset to their organizations. Even with a practicing attorney, among its membership, the Police Service Commission, seemingly starved of procedural knowledge, had not only shirked, but also shifted its responsibilities to Acting Commissioner Atlee Rodney. They had apparently exploited his innocence or procedural ignorance. Though not authoritatively, he was assigned responsibility for conducting disciplinary investigations against his superior, Commissioner of Police Wendell Robinson. He have been driven into a state of paranoia and left inescapably wedgedbetween a rock and a hard place.Buttressed by clear multiple procedural blunders, he showed a , a resolve and will of steel in mounting legal challenges to that considered adverse to his reputation or necessary to avert looming ‘…Administrative Consequences.’

ARMED TO SHOOT

When the ‘PSC’ Chairman, Kelvin John referred three written complaints, first to Attorney General Steadroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin and then to Acting Commissioner Atlee Rodney, abdicating his responsibility, he had ‘…passed him the buck.’ This was where procedural horrors’begun. When he was called upon to investigate allegations of ‘…rebuffed sexual advances’ made by three male officers against Commissioner Wendell Robinson, he had ‘…Armed him to Shoot’ him from the back. Ironically, this occurred immediately after the Police Service Commission had suspended his superior from office, and appointed him to ‘…act as Commissioner of Police’ [April 5, 2018]. Action subsequently taken had been misguided and inconsistent with prescriptive legal procedures. He in turn obtained approval, and arranged for a 3-man investigative team from the regionally known Caribbean Community Implementation Agency for Crime and Security- ‘…IMPACS.

CRIME AND SECURITY

When evidence suggests that discredit may have been brought, or likely to have been brought to the reputation of the Police Service, by conduct inimical to the ‘…Organization’s Interest,’ the disciplinary machinery had often been activated. There has never doubt that high standard of discipline was critical to maintain public confidence and to protect the integrity of the Police Service. Though for a purpose far removed from ‘…Crime and Security,’ Acting Commissioner may have unwittingly caused the Police Service Commission to appoint them as ‘Special Constables.’ Consistent with the law, he had placed them under the command of Acting Deputy Commissioner Albert Wade with a delegated task to oversee investigation into the complaints against Commissioner. Interestingly, ‘…Terms of Reference’ were prepared. Apart from the complaints, they were to prefer any other disciplinary charges that may arise from the investigation’ [ANUHCV: 2018/0202]. For clarity of understanding, the Police Service Commission (PSC), has responsibilities for, (as far as ranks above Sergeant are concerned) appoint persons to hold or act in offices in the Police Service.

OVER-POWERING CAVEAT

 The exercise of authority, include (a) ‘…appointment on promotion and confirmation of appointments and transfer; and (b) …To remove and exercise disciplinary control over persons holding or acting in such offices’ [CO: 1981: Section 105]. Even with such exercisable powers, the body is limited to making appointments of police personnel to ranks above Superintendent of Police without consultation with the Prime Minister. For instance, the Constitution specifically states ‘…Before the Police Service Commission makes an appointment to the office of Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner, or a like post, however designated, it shall consult with the Prime Minister.’ The ‘…Over-Powering Prime Ministerial Caveat’ unambiguously states ‘…If the Prime Minister signifies to the Police Service Commission his objection to the appointment of that person, no appointment shall be made’ [Section 105 (3)].

ORGANIZATIONAL DISCIPLINE

In matters of ‘…Organizational Discipline’ and grave public concern, agencies and agents of the State shall not only conform to the law, but shall follow the legally prescribed disciplinary procedures to address such matters and/or those that had provoked public concern. Given the seriousness of the allegations made against the leadership of the Police Service, there was no doubt that it necessitated independent and decisive corrective disciplinary action. Likened to St. Paul, accused Commissioner Wendell Robinson may have been saying ‘…For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet’ [KJV: 1 Corinthians 15: 25]. Though twilight appears to be quickly fading on his career, there is hope that there will be light at the end of a darkened tunnel.

MISCHIEF OF PARLIAMENT

The investigative team was not appointed for the purposes stipulated in law, or with the agenda of the regional organization that specifically deals with ‘…Crime and Security.’ It was a ‘…STRATCOM’s release to the media that informed citizens of the arrival of a ‘…3-man team of investigators from a regional agency to probe allegations against the Commissioner [OMG: August 2, 2018]. For ease of reference the law states ‘…The Commission may, at any time that they think it expedient in the public interest so to do, appoint fit and proper persons to be Special Constables to act as such for the preservation of the peace’ [Section 72: Police Act: Chapter 330]. There may be no doubt or misunderstanding of the ‘…Mischief Aimed by Parliament.’ Antiguan and Barbuda law students at the ‘…Jamaican Norman Manley Law School’ shall find no difficulties in understanding such mischief.

OATH OF OFFICE

Such Oath States ‘…I Jack Rabbit do solemnly swear that I will well and truly serve Our Sovereign Lady the Queen in the office of Special Constable in Antigua and Barbuda, without favor or affection, malice or ill-will, and that I will cause Her Majesty’s Peace to be preserved, and will prevent to the utmost of my power, offences against the same. So help me, God’ [Section 74]. Even more instructive, the law states ‘…Special Constables shall be under the orders of such officers as may be appointed to command them by the Commissioner of Police and, in the absence of any such officer, shall be under the orders of the Commissioner of Police’ [Section 76].The trio were remunerated with stipend form the Consolidated Fund’ [Section 78: Police Act].

ORGANIZATIONAL INTEREST

Likened to the Commissioner of Police who exercises disciplinary control over ‘…Corporals and Constables, the Police Service Commission on recommendation of the Commissioner of Police may suspend an officer that has attained the rank of, and above Sergeant.’ While a Commissioner of Police may be suspended for conduct inconsistent with the disciplinary regulations, there are no ‘…Statutory or Constitutional provisions’ for the Commission to shift investigative responsibility to a person for an alleged breach, or breaches of discipline that it had independently acted upon. They may, however, exercise powers and delegate authority to ‘…any of its member/s or a public officer’ [CO: 1981: Section 99].

CONCLUSION

There was no doubt that the office of Commissioner shall at all material times, be in the occupation of a person of high repute, impeccable character and capable of commanding organizational respect and inspiring public confidence. Now that the investigation into allegations has been completed and charges of ‘…Discreditable and Oppressive Conduct’ had been laid against Commissioner Wendell Robinson. Even as there has been a deafening silence on the way forward to disciplinary hearing, there has been heightened public interest and eager anticipation in being informed on the status of the investigations. Viewed from the contents of the Oath of Office,’ he could justifiably argue that the ‘…Special Constables’ were appointed to show ‘…Favor and affection to the Police Service Commission,’ while harboring ‘…Malice and ill-will against him.’ This may not necessarily be a hearing to determine ‘…balance of probability or improbability,’ but a hearing to make determinations of ‘…Fate and Future’ of the suspended Commissioner Wendell Robinson. Though the Police Service Commission had reportedly divorced itself from the investigative arrangements, it shall not distance itself from the procedural errors surrounding the affair.

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