Acting Police Commissioner Erla Christopher –
THE Prime Minister said the appointment of Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Erla Christopher as the next substantive commissioner of police (CoP) is not assured.
The House of Representatives sits on Friday to debate a motion to approve a notification issued by President Paula-Mae Weekes, identifying Christopher, currently the acting CoP, as the Police Service Commission’s (PSC) top candidate for this post.
Dr Rowley made this comment while speaking to the media after touring a new PriceSmart Sustainable Solutions Plant at the Point Lisas Business Park, Couva on Tuesday.
The motion, filed in Rowley’s name, to approve Christopher’s nomination is listed on a supplemental order paper for Friday’s House sitting.
The motion states that Christopher’s nomination by the PSC in keeping with Sections 123 (1)(a), 123 (3) and 123 (4) of the Constitution.
The PSC submitted Christopher’s name to Weekes as “the person nominated as the highest graded candidate for appointment to the office of Commissioner of Police.”
Weekes,who demits office on March 20, issued the notification for Christopher’s nomination on January 30.
Rowley was asked whether Christopher’s nomination to become CoP is guaranteed, given the Government’s 22-19 majority in the House over the Opposition.
“No. Nothing is a shoo-in. The Parliament will meet and the Parliament has to take a decision.”
He added, “By the Parliament, I mean all 41 of us (22 government, 19, opposition MPs). Rowley reminded the media that all 41 MPs in the House speak regularly about the police and crime in TT
“So the system is working. The commission (PSC) has taken its time and I was beginning to get a little concerned. But the commission has done its work and they have made a recommendation to the Parliament.”
Rowley said, “It is for the Parliament now to act. It (House sitting) is coming up on Friday because we are eager to get the post (of CoP) filled. We waited for the commission to do its work. The work has been done. So on Friday, we will expect the Parliament to act.
While Christopher is due to retire from the police service in May, Rowley did not see this as a problem should she be appointed as the substantive CoP.
“No. The CoP is acting. It’s a contract being offered and one is not debarred when you are coming up for retirement.”
Rowley said, “One can go into contract any time and whoever is hired there, would be hired by contract. So that is not a problem.”
He was not concerned the name of only one nominee for CoP was sent to the President.
“I have not seen the documents yet. So I don’t know that is correct.”
Rowley said, “Contrary to what has been said all along. I have not seen the merit list but I understand that there is a merit list because the process calls for ranking on a merit list.”
After reiterating that the merit list used by the PSC does not come to him, Rowley said, “One name (from the list) comes up. The Parliament will adjudicate on it.”
Should the name of that nominee be rejected, the next nominee on the list is examined.
Rowley said this “is what happened the last time as far as my memory serves well.”
Christopher has been acting CoP since former acting CoP McDonald Jacob retired from the police service on January 21. Jacob was appointed a DCP in April 2021 by a contract for three years but the PSC subsequently determined the contract was null and void on the basis that he was still a serving officer, on leave, when he was recruited. He was then given an extension in office under Section 75 of the Police Service Act which had to be evaluated every 12 months before it is extended. Jacob celebrated his 61st birthday on January 21. He had been on vacation since the first week of December, 2022. Christopher faces a similar position as she turns 60 in May and will need Cabinet’s approval to remain in the service beyond that.