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JUST LIKE IT IS – Keep the force Bajan

Peter Simmons

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It is the national institutions which form the genius, the character, the tastes, and the morals of a people, which make them themselves and not another people, which inspire them with that ardent love of fatherland based upon ineradicable habits.” – RosseauI was deeply impressed that Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin told the passing out parade at the Regional Police Training Centre that he did not want to see Barbados follow some other Caricom states and appoint an expatriate as commissioner.He made the significant point that there has been a correlation between the replacement of commissioners and growing crime levels and “it has been quite noticeable that in some instances the frequent search for leaders has led to the employment of people who are, in the most part, expatriates”.He also said: “I am of the view that it is unreasonable and perhaps unfair to employ people, place them in positions of leadership, and then attach unrealistic expectations to their performance. I firmly believe that we must strenuously avoid such an approach. Indeed what is required in the current circumstances is a commitment to upgrade and strengthen our institutions.”In a culture where public servants are afraid to speak their minds, I commend the commissioner for his bold, forthright comments. For the benefit of the talk show host who said he did not understand what the commissioner meant by expatriate, a word in everyday usage, I interpreted it to mean a non-national, someone from outside the borders of a particular host country.The commissioner captured the strong patriotic attitudes and attributes with which we have been inculcated and endowed, and which have helped to liberate us from the colonial thinking which still keeps some sovereign Caricom states looking out to metropolitan capitals rather than within their own borders. It is hardly coincidental that these same countries are the ones which continue to embrace the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom as their final appellate jurisdiction even when that court is complaining that too much of its time is taken up with Caribbean cases, recommending gratuitously that they support their own functioning Caribbean Court of Justice.The commissioner’s comments came within days of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago appointing a Canadian national to be its new commissioner. It is a sad reflection on the progress of that country, which became independent in 1962, that it has to look north to the white Commonwealth in 2010 for its top cop. What will this do to such key criteria as loyalty, pride and national honour within the ranks? Coming in the wake of the infamous Canadian-headed UDECOTT shenanigans, which contributed substantially to the downfall of the Manning administration, Canadians are unlikely to be the flavour of the times in Port-of-Spain. How come, in a sophisticated and prosperous society with a UWI campus, there was an absence of proper succession planning in this vital area of peace-keeping and security? It is a sociological fact that the internal functioning of an organisation is strongly conditioned by external circumstances, such as the environment within which it operates. It will be instructive observing key factors like group loyalty, personal gratification, professional advancement and recruitment in the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service in the immediate future. The portents are hardly propitious.  Crime and security were major concerns in the May elections. A natural corollary of stable political authority is stable police authority and public confidence in the national security agencies which are major drivers in the thrust for national modernisation and rapid economic growth and development in the richest and most technologically driven Caricom state.Adding to the overall instability and running parallel with the appointment of an expatriate commissioner is the loud public spat between the attorney general and acting commissioner of police over who has jurisdiction for the security of the collapsed church at Guanapo Heights which was allegedly linked to Patrick Manning and his spiritual adviser during the election campaign.It says a lot about the Barbados Police Force that following the appointment of the first black commissioner, Mr Girwood Springer in 1972, a number of officers understood that colonialism stifled the emergence of a mass-based higher educated class and prepared themselves academically for the top ranks of our post-colonial force. Hence commissioners Durant, Watson and Dottin are attorneys-at-law.  When Commissioner Dottin looks around the Caribbean, he must feel justifiably proud that not only are his senior ranks Bajan to the bone, but there is no public squabbling between his men and the political class. In St Lucia the substantive commissioner was removed as crime skyrocketed and given a desk job in the prime minister’s office. He has never taken it up, remaining out on “sick leave”.In Antigua and Barbuda’s top ranks of the force are retired Canadian officers. In Jamaica, former commissioner Rear Admiral Lewin has launched a loud tirade against the government, making the very serious allegation that senior members of the Bruce Golding government had tipped off Christopher “Dudus” Coke when preparations for his extradition were imminent. It is noteworthy that in Jamaica though the commissioner is indigenous, three deputies are expatriates. Yet the crime rate has grown exponentially and on a per-capita basis that country has more murders per year than any other anywhere. Latest reports indicate that though the state of emergency has caused a fall-off in the metropolitan area, the dons have shifted their operations elsewhere.So those who delight in tearing down Commissioner Dottin and the force, we can proudly join him in saying not ’bout hey!
 Peter Simmons, a social scientist, is a former diplomat.