Former Police Commissioners were given less to do more – Astaphan

This was the view of former National Security Minister Dwyer Astaphan during an exclusive interview with MiyVue.com.

Astaphan reminded that while he was Minister of National Security, from 2004 to 2008, the Commissioner of Police was Robert Jeffers.

“When it came time to appoint a new Commissioner after Mr. Jeffers was moving on, a number of interviews and discussions took place, including interviews with the officers who were shortlisted to replace the outgoing Commissioner,” Astaphan said.

He added that to his knowledge, the officers listed for the post were Stafford Liburd who is presently the Deputy Commissioner, Austin Williams, Joseph Richardson, Joseph Liburd and Ian Queeley.

“It is important to note that on the onset all of these men whose name I just called were highly qualified, widely experienced and extensively trained police officers. They were exposed to a number of human development opportunities,” Astaphan said.

Astaphan noted that the selected officers had earned their place on the list. He also argues that they are all better trained and qualified for the job, compared to the current office holder.

The former minister told this publication that the issue with the police force back then in terms of leadership was that the resources given to them were limited, adding that there were also low motivation levels.

“Besides needing a strong leader, the force needed resource support and better facilities. These men were interviewed and I think a point was reached when Richardson said, ‘you all will choose who you all want’,” Astaphan said.

He further noted that a decision was taken that Stafford Liburd would be the next Commissioner.

“It was also felt that those persons who were previously mentioned would form a team around him (Stafford Liburd). So the decision was taken to appoint Liburd. However, the morning when the appointed was to be announced, I got a telephone call that the Prime Minister had decided that Austin Williams would be Commissioner.”

Astaphan said that although he has nothing against Williams, the process of how he was selected was, in his view, erroneous. “Sam Condor was so upset he didn’t even attend. It was not about Austin it was the way it was done,” he added. Williams was appointed in February, 2008.

The former National Security Minister also made the claim that Douglas decided to appoint Williams, over Liburd, because he wanted to have someone in the position who would not impede his plans for the election that was pending and he thought that Williams would have been less of an obstacle. However, there were two major incidents that showed that Williams was no puppet.

Many can recall that during the July 11th, 2011 local election in Nevis, then Supervisor of Elections, Pastor Leroy Benjamin, went on radio to boldly state that the police would check all voters to ensure that they had the necessary IDs, before being allowed to vote. This however was immediately rejected by Commissioner Williams who publicly stated that his officers would not play such a role and that that was not their job. It was thought that the authorities were seeking to use the police to engage in electoral matters that were not their remit and Williams decided not to have any of it.

There was one other occasion when Commissioner Williams flexed his muscles to show he was no “yes man” and that he had backbone. This was also in 2011 when he wrote a letter to Permanent Secretary of National Security, Astona Browne. 

He said, “Please permit me the use of this medium to express my displeasure to your many unreasonable and unfounded accusation(s) levied against the office of the Commissioner of Police and the High Command of the Police Force. As well the insensitive tone of your correspondence shows utter disregard and lack of respect for the Office of Commissioner of Police and the High Command by extension.”

Williams was said to be angry over accusations made by Browne saying he was a conveyor of false impressions. he said she also questioned the Police High Command’s integrity regarding the sharing of information within the force.

Part of the fallout between Williams and Browne related to a list of needs for the police force and he told the Permanent Secretary “…for you to say that I am not truthful and that I gave false impressions in relation to the list submitted is a direct attack on my integrity. If I might suggest, any list that reaches your attention in relation to the needs of the police should automatically catch your attention for urgent action in light of what we are experiencing – re: The rise in serious crimes. This is not the time to conceal one’s time behind procedures especially where the bureaucracy will cause an unreasonable delay.”

By the end of August that same year (2011) Williams was removed as Commissioner, paving the way for CG Walwyn’s appointment.

This 2011 charge by Williams seems to confirm what Astaphan is now arguing in 2014 that the force was starved of resources until CG Walwyn was brought on board and immediately given what he wanted. 

Astaphan stated that in his first Budget hearing as Minister of National Security, having visited a number of police stations and other facilities, he made a plea for money to help develop the infrastructure among other areas in the force.

“I was told, and it was not a lie, that there was no money. In fact the Prime Minister in that meeting in front of all who were there said if I thought that my Ministry was the only ministry in the Government,” Astaphan said.

The former Minister said that he told the Prime Minister on that occasion that his Ministry, apart from the others, was the most important one, adding that there was crisis with the rise in gangs among youths.

Astaphan maintained his view that the police force was neglected prior to the appointment of CG Walwyn.


 


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