To date, Prime Minister Mia Mottley has not yet fully articulated what specific “skills” she meant when she sought to explain the presence of former Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin at a media briefing convened last Friday within the precincts of the nation’s Parliament to discuss the crime situation in Barbados. She did, however, attach those “skills” to the fight against crime in Barbados.
Attorney General Dale Marshall also referenced the word “skills” when he sought to explain the resurrection of the former head of the Royal Barbados Police Force. He had this to say: “I believe that this will be an opportunity first to welcome the former commissioner back in the area of lending his skills in helping us deal with the issue. The current commissioner has welcomed him and has welcomed the advice of the former commissioner because he recognizes that many of these issues have presented themselves in Barbados society in the past.” Though he too spoke at the media briefing Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith noticeably did not publicly offer that “welcome”.
It is a matter of public record contained in an official report from the Police Service Commission, signed by the commissioners, as well as the then Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave, the circumstances under which Mr Dottin was sent on administrative leave and in essence, relieved of the duties of Commissioner of Police in 2013. Most of the raison d’être in the report for his removal was indicated to have been as a result of sworn affidavits by two constables attached to the Force’s Special Branch. Other evidence was presented by the PSC in the report and the culmination of the action by the body responsible for oversight of the Force was that the matter made its way to the courts of Barbados. Following injunctions, appeals, hearings and a failed attempt for special leave to appeal to the Caribbean Court of Justice, the result was that Mr Dottin was never returned to office up to going on pre-retirement leave in November 2016.
We believe Mr Dottin has the best interest of Barbados at heart. We applaud any civilian – inclusive of Mr Dottin – who because of his or her patriotism and concern for law and order in Barbados is motivated to provide information or advice to the Royal Barbados Police Force. Many persons do so via the Police Hotline, in person or by calling any police station or police officer to whom they have access. And in most cases, we believe, they are driven by patriotism and concern for their country and not monetary reward. But at the end of the day, the Royal Barbados Police Force is responsible for taking action with its Commissioner of Police the ultimate, if not the only, authorized decision-maker with respect to police investigations and action taken.
It is within this context that Government needs to clearly define the why and the what of Mr Dottin’s mooted consultative role, and how much will this previously unheard of position in Barbados cost taxpayers. Also, how will this affect the morale of the Force which was frequently brought into public question during the tenure of Mr Dottin and his then deputy Bertie Hinds? Significantly, how does this reflect on the capabilities of the sitting commissioner, who, we are told, has more decades of recognized crime-fighting skills honed at every level coming through the ranks than some of his predecessors?
The Royal Barbados Police Force has consistently indicated that it has crime in Barbados under control. The violence being perpetrated, it says, is not widespread but confined to warring groups linked to the illegal drug trade. Apart from these thugs sporadically sending themselves to their Maker, police have been making inroads into the madness and mayhem in the island by the seizure of weapons as well as the arrest of several suspects. Though the uninitiated might bury their heads in the sand or simply were not paying attention, Barbados has had crime spikes in the 1980s, 1990s and in the early 2000s and neither Mr Aviston Prescod, Mr Orville Durant, Mr Grantley Watson or Mr Dottin himself was given the luxury or saddled – depending on perspective – with a paid consultant. In essence, the Force has been doing a great job in handling Barbados’ crime situation. It has the responsibility of relieving our communities of some of the miscreants that plague our citizenry but it is not solely responsible for putting them back on the streets. Notwithstanding the sloth of the police getting case files to court, the presence of a number of thugs on our streets has been as a result of glaring flaws in our judicial system.
Since Barbados’ constitution and the Police Act place no legal obligation on a sitting commissioner to listen to a single word emanating from the mouth of a paid civilian consultant or indeed even to accommodate his presence, and since taxpayers might be paying for yet another of these several consultants, Government needs to spell out what are the “skills” Mr Dottin will be offering that sitting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith does not possess that has led to this unprecedented political move in the Royal Barbados Police Force.