“Promotion is at the heart of the Force. You can’t have proper governance if that is not done well.”
This point was made during testimony in the No. 2 Supreme Court today by Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin, as he explained the full procedure as to how promotions are normally done within the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF).
The witness was being cross-examined by attorney-at-law Ralph Thorne QC before Justice Margaret Reifer in a civil matter in which 14 police officers are challenging a 2012 decision by the Police Services Commission (PSC) to remove their names from a promotions list.
Dottin revealed that non-gazetted officers, from the rank of Inspector downward, are required to take an examination and, once successful, are “in the selection zone.” A subsequent interview is conducted and graded by the Promotions Advisory Board (PAB). If that grade is acceptable, then “you can be eligible for promotion”, he explained.
Dottin, who is on leave but whose substantive post remains Commissioner of Police, said that during the interview process the PAB would normally consider the candidates’ curriculum vitae and also their personal record, which is computerized and displayed during the interview.
“Everything that is known about the officer is there,” Dottin said, including postings, specialized training and commendations. Even where officers have been turned down for promotion, they ought to be interviewed “at least once every three years,” he explained.
The top cop explained that decisions on promotions should also include “the needs of the Force and the specialized training of officers.”
Dottin explained that usually he would communicate to the PSC the organizational chart of the force, problems the force was facing at the particular time, leadership and the promotion process. He also offered a “sketch” on every officer recommended and would mention those who were not chosen for promotion and why.
Describing the promotion process as “a difficult and stressful exercise,” Dottin said he followed procedure in making his recommendations.
He also recalled meeting with previous Police Services Commissions about “four or five times” a year, but had only met with the newly-constituted PSC on one “solitary” occasion between 2008 and 2013, although he requested several meetings.
“Do you know of any reason why they did not meet with you?” Thorne questioned.
“I don’t think they ever gave me a reason,” Dottin replied.
“You cannot have proper running of the force unless there is some agreement between the Commissioner, the Commission [PSC], the Permanent Secretary and the Minister responsible for the Force,” the top cop stressed.
“ . . . if the Commissioner is not involved in discipline and handing out incentives . . . you can’t lead, so it is best if you take up your bag and go home.”
In response to another query from Thorne, Dottin said he had heard his former deputy Bertie Hinds tell the court that he (Hinds) had met with the PSC on occasions.
Dottin also agreed with Thorne’s suggestion that the lack of promotions would have affected some officers financially since they would not receive the salary increase which comes with promotion.
“Some of these officers would have been disadvantaged by over $1 000 in some cases?” asked Thorne.
“Yes,” Dottin responded.
He also agreed that over the past three years, others had been promoted to acting positions.
“So they have become subordinates to their former subordinates?” Thorne asked.
Dottin replied that he believed it had not only affected morale but the running of the force, noting that some officers with specialized training were not being utilized. He made mention of the Head of the Financial Crimes Department who had been moved and deprived of the opportunity to develop the Cyber Crime Unit.
When asked about whether he had recommended Leila Strickland-Boyce, he denied doing so. Questioned further, Dottin said that she had received a double-promotion, going from Assistant Superintendent to Senior Superintendent, after his recommended officers were denied.
When Tariq Khan who is representing the PSC cross-examined Dottin, he referred to a previous statement by the witness about the lack of consultation between himself and the PSC about denying the promotions.
Dottin remarked that it would be “extraordinary” for an organization “to choose leaders and that the CEO not have a look-in.”
“When there is a problem with crime in this country, they look to a Commissioner to explain what is happening. Do you ever see a member of the Commission sitting before the cameras?” he asked.
The witness agreed with Khan that the PSC can make recommendations of its own, but felt the Commissioner of Police was responsible for “the day-to-day running of the force” and he should have been given the opportunity to explain the reasons for his recommendations and to hear the Commission’s views as well.
Questioned about whether he consulted with senior police officers with regard to the promotion of those above the rank of Inspector, Dottin said he did so.
He was also asked about whether he had to include his deputy in decision-making about promotions.
Dottin responded that according to the regulations, the Promotions Advisory Board comprises the Commissioner as Chairperson, along with his deputy or an Assistant Commissioner of Police and a Senior Superintendent.
The matter continues tomorrow.
Leslie Haynes QC is appearing on behalf of Dottin, along with Donna Brathwaite QC and Jared Richards, who are also representing the Commissioner of Police and the Attorney General.
Ralph Thorne QC is representing Superintendent Jeddar Robinson, Assistant Superintendents Elphene Moore, Vernella Wiltshire, Richard Boyce, Antonio Forte and John Maxwell, along with Inspectors Elliott Bovell, Barry Hunte, Trevor Blackman and Roderick Walcott.
Thorne is also appearing on behalf of Station Sergeants Sonia Boyce and Vernon Moore and Sergeant Noel Moore.
Sergeant Errol Ellis’ attorney is Alair Shepherd Q.C.