About six years ago during proceedings into a civil case brought by more than a dozen police officers with respect to promotions in the Royal Barbados Police Force, Queen’s Counsel Alair Shepherd in a furious outburst related to delays in the case, noted that the stalled process negatively impacted on the ability of the force to discharge its duties. He referred specifically to officers’ ability to operate in official supervisory capacities. The promotion of officers, in addition to rewarding individuals for their sterling contributions to ensuring law and order, serves to fill supervisory vacancies.
Fast forward to September, 2014, then acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith in reference to the stalled promotion process brought on by the protracted court case, publicly noted that it had caused the level of supervision in the force “to suffer”. Again, promotions have a vital purpose of filling vacancies. The result of the court case led to a situation where there were police officers “acting” probably more than what obtains in Hollywood. After acting himself from June 2013, Mr Griffith was finally confirmed as Commissioner of Police on Sunday, October 1, 2017. For all and sundry, we are told, it was a most deserving official elevation for a highly skilled and knowledgeable police officer who had come through the ranks, as many suggested, the right way.
Fast forward once more to February 16, 2018, and to comments made by Mr Griffith during a promotion exercise. He gave words of encouragement to his hardworking men and women – those who had been promoted and those who had not. He had this to say: “The challenge is always difficult to determine who should be elevated. But we do a very thorough job and we take a number of factors into consideration, and at the end of the day, we hope that we get it right. There is never perfection, but I believe that we’ve come very close to perfection.”
Mr Griffith, described by many as a policeman’s commissioner and one of the most outstanding to lead the organization over the past decades, went even further. He added: “Whenever there are promotions there is a tendency for some shoulders to droop for a short while. But the good thing about our organization is that the next day, our men and women get up and put their hands on the plough, and ensure that the task at hand is properly carried out.” This was a truism if ever there was one.
Taking into consideration the purpose which promotions serve, especially in high-stress and never-adequately-rewarded professions such as a police force, complaints in our local constabulary over last week’s promotions have not gone unnoticed and indeed given the context of the promotions, are quite justified. The Police Sevice Commission in tandem with the office of the Commissioner of Police created history in Barbados by making a posthumous promotion. Put simply, a police officer deceased since September 2018 was technically promoted to fill a vacancy in the rank of sergeant.
Of course, at least two explanations can be given for this. One, the promotion was made before he died in September, and two, if there was a widow receiving a state benefit since the officer died in service, then she might likely have that increased with his posthumous promotion. But in the former scenario, it is being argued that the promotion should have been rescinded since it would serve no administrative or operational purpose in any police force. In essence, since the dead officer cannot physically fill any vacancy, another promotion will still have to be made to do so. In the second possible scenario, we are told, there are other internal mechanisms that can apply in such circumstances other than promoting a corpse.
Since that promotion last week, to echo the comments of Mr Griffith a year ago, some police shoulders have drooped. Some who have written and passed promotion examinations and are still very alive, are aghast that they have been passed over for an officer who has passed away. This surely could not be one of those instances where “the challenge is always difficult to determine who should be elevated. But we do a very thorough job and we take a number of factors into consideration, and at the end of the day, we hope that we get it right.”
One challenge we believe that could not have been too difficult to determine was that a corpse would find it quite impossible to put its hands to the plough far less fill a vacancy or serve the Barbadian public. Beyond the good feeling which the promotion might have brought to family and very close friends, it has long been established what purpose promotions serve in the Royal Barbados Police Force. May those hardworking officers in the land of the living continue to serve their country and may the goodly departed officer continue to rest in eternal peace.