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PM responds to talk about filling police top spots

PM responds to talk about filling police top spots

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Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves yesterday defended the policy that saw three university graduates appointed to the officer corps of the Police Force since 2010 {{more}} and said the grumbling needs to stop.

“Are we so lacking in foresight? Can three out of 800 keep down officers?” he said at the Coastguard Base in Calliaqua, during a ceremony where the United States donated two interceptor vessels.

“Please don’t tell me that we are so lacking in grace in our Police Force,” Gonsalves said. “I don’t believe that we are so lacking in our understanding.”

His comments came on a day when Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace, in unrelated comments, criticised the government’s implementation of the policy.

“It is not an issue for war, this is an issue of sensible policy,” said Gonsalves, who is also Minister of National Security.

He added that other constabularies across the region had implemented similar programmes and it came down to how they are implemented and managed.

Former journalist, now Inspector of Police, Hawkins Nanton, this month became the third person to be appointed to the top ranks of the Police Force under the programme.

Kamecia Blake, 24, was appointed an Assistant Superintendent of Police in October 2010 and in December 2011, then 25-year-old Avianne Smith was appointed a Sergeant.

But Gonsalves said the entrance of the three into the top ranks of the Police Force would not prevent other cops from moving upwards.

He, however, said that some members of the constabulary laud the new policy, but others have been expressing concern.

The policy resulted from a study that recommended that university graduates with special skills enter the Police Force at a level close to the officer corps.

Gonsalves said the policy needs careful implementation to guard against a large number of young graduates joining the force and occupying high-level positions to which existing cops might think they should be promoted.

“And that is not a concern that one should treat slightly and that is why we said we will do limited numbers in the regard,” he said.

He, however, said that he was satisfied that the programme has spurred on officers to seek further training.

“But they cannot tell me that in a compliment of 800 men and women that the entry of three — not 30, … three — is so subversive of the order of the Police Force that some may wish to turn askance against that,” Gonsalves said.

He added that he was urging the Police Force to use a sense of balance on the issue.

The prime minister referred to Nanton, Blake, and Smith and said they had been recruited to the Force not only because they are university graduates, but also because they each bring something new to the force to help in its overall development.

Some wanted to hear a statement on the issue, Gonsalves said, adding that there are others waiting who may have their own agendas.

He said police officers need to be aware of such people.

The prime minister said the grumbling needs to stop.

He added that the time may soon come where there may be too many graduate officers returning to the Force and they may not have as many vacancies to be filled.

But provisions have been made for this, through the graduate allowance programme, in which cops, not appointed to a rank in keeping with their qualification, will be compensated in their pay packet.

Gonsalves said over the past 11 years his administration has been placing tremendous emphasis on training men and women and that he had been advised that half of the policemen and women were currently studying.

“This does not mean that we are training policemen and women to be academics … We are training them to be better at their work to combat the cunning and increased sophistication of the criminals,” Gonsalves said.

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