Williams says local is best to lead T&T Police Service
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Friday August 10, 2012 – Newly appointed acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams believes a local is better than a foreigner to head the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.
He also says he is no political tool and that his qualifications and experience can stand up to public scrutiny.
The new top cop made the statements as he addressed his first daily police news briefing after assuming leadership of the Police Service following the resignation of Canadians Dwayne Gibbs and Jack Ewatski.
The resignations of Gibbs, a former Edmonton Police Services superintendent, and Ewatski, former Winnipeg police chief, were effective August 7.
Gibbs and Ewatski, who were recruited two years ago to tackle escalating crime, had been publicly criticised by National Security Minister Jack Warner in recent weeks. In a joint statement, they said their decision to leave “was based on our own personal reasons”.
Williams, meanwhile, was named the Police Service Commission's (PSC) choice to become Trinidad’s substantive Police Commissioner after a selection process in 2008.
His chance of becoming top cop nevertheless ended in the Parliament after the then ruling People's National Movement (PNM) voted against him being the head of the Police Service.
Last year, when the People's Partnership Government called a state of emergency, Williams was in charge of the Police Service because then Police Commissioner Gibbs was out of the country.
Responding to questions as to how he would appease citizens who may believe his ascension to the post of top cop at this time is politically motivated, Williams said:
"I think it is difficult for me to appease the citizens in relation to issues around political motivation. What I can assure the citizens is that I have spent the last 33 years working as a police officer. I have done everything that I can do as a professional police officer. I have been exposed to all levels of training as a police officer. I have actually been exposed to the highest level of training that anyone could receive at leadership level in the Commonwealth within policing. My CV (curriculum vitae) speaks for itself, my record of performance speaks for itself, I lead by example. I spent 33 years not taking a single day sick leave to date. How many persons in public life can speak to that?
"So I do not have to address the issue around politics. I have to address the issue of policing, that is my profession. I have spent a career doing that. I have qualified myself as an attorney-at-law. There is so much out there in the context of me as a police officer, so the issue of politics is not there for me. I am a professional police officer and I stay away from politics," Williams stated.
While expressing gratitude for the service Gibbs and Ewatski gave to the country, he said he is of the view that a local is better equipped to lead the Police Service.
"The both officers (Gibbs and Ewatski) have made a valuable contribution to policing in Trinidad and Tobago, they have proven to be dedicated police officers and that contribution has been made towards the protection of the citizens of this land at a very difficult time, a time when we have been confronted with challenges associated especially with violent crimes," Williams said.
"As a nation, we need to acknowledge and salute these officers for their performance, having come from Canada to Trinidad and Tobago and dedicated their time here for the past just-short-of-two years," he said.
When asked whether he felt a local was better than a foreigner to lead the Police Service, Williams responded: "I think yes it is best left to be addressed by a local like myself; that is my thought on it.
"The choice though of appointing a commissioner does not rest with me so that will be one for the Police Service Commission, but I share the view that it is best left for local officers to run the organisation."
Williams said the Police Service is moving forward with a "clear focus" to ensure a "seamless transition" between Gibbs's departure from and his ascension to the post of top cop.
He said after his five-month contract ends next year he is not certain as yet if he would apply for the substantive post when the PSC advertises for the position.
Williams says he has already given 33 years' service to the country and it may be time to explore other options.
He noted that controlling violent crime is the Police Service's top priority and recommendations will be sought from all officers, in an attempt to achieve that target.