July 19, 2013

Charles has daunting task

Fri July 19, 2013

As we welcome the new Commissioner of Police (acting) Michael Charles, and say thank you and farewell to his predecessor, Keith Miller, we cannot but agree with the new head that “….there are going to be a lot of challenges” before him in this undertaking. {{more}}

Commissioner Miller had come into the job with many expectations for a new dispensation, and while some advances were made, there were also disappointments during his tenure.

Mr Miller’s appointment was part of efforts to change the face of the police force, with many hoping it would become more of a police service and less of a “force”. There were hopes for the modernization of the institution with better educated officers, more specialisation and a greater role for women. Not all of these were understood or appreciated by the public, and it was up to those put in such pioneering roles to deliver the results.

To his credit, Mr Miller leaves office without questions being asked about his honesty or integrity. There have never been any allegations of corruption involving the Commissioner, which is more than can be said of some former holders of the office. He was a hard worker, but one gets the impression that Mr Miller was unwilling or unable to delegate tasks / responsibilities to his senior officers, thus decreasing his overall effectiveness. His main shortcoming however, was the poor judgement he exercised in certain high profile situations, which regretably, tarnished his image.

Commissioner Charles steps into the big boots of “Top Cop”, with a daunting task before him. In recent times, there have been a number of unsavoury incidents involving police officers, several of which ended up before the courts. There have also been incidents involving police officers shooting fellow officers.

While it is true that police officers are drawn from the society, one would expect that the screening process and training procedures would ensure that those entrusted with upholding law and order would prove worthy of such a grave responsibility. We expect our officers to be exemplary in carrying out their duties, earning the respect and confidence of the general public in doing so.

In addition, there seems to be a developing trend of blunders and errors in carrying out police duties, leading to the discharge of some accused persons when cases go before the court. The old bugbear of allegations of police brutality is also still with us.

All these face the new Commissioner as he embarks on his new assignment. Restoring the image of the police force and indeed changing the perception that it is there only for “force” to a feeling that the police are there to “serve” us, are among his most formidable challenges. In this, Commissioner Charles needs the full cooperation of his officers, men and women. Without their support, he cannot succeed.

We the citizens, including the political class, also must give him the chance to succeed. For too long, politicians on both sides of the House, have tried to play politics with the police force, and in the process, have divided the organization. It is important that both Government and Opposition repose confidence in the force and the people who lead it, and not try to play one off against the other. It is important for the morale of the force that there be fairness and justice in its administration and that the officers are allowed to carry out their duties without fear or favour.

It is in the interest of us all that Commissioner Charles succeeds in the challenge now before him.