EDITORIAL: A suspension of a celebration

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The celebration was short-lived.  Suspended Commissioner of Police, Wendel Robinson, has been suspended again.  Just writing that sentence feels as strange grammatically as it does conceptually.  As we reported, the ink was hardly dry on Justice Godfrey Smith’s ruling that Robinson’s suspension should be lifted and he should be reinstated, before the Police Service Commission (PSC) issued another suspension letter to Robinson.
The reason for this latest suspension is related to the pending hearing and outcome of internal disciplinary charges of discreditable conduct under Section 105 of the Constitution, which speaks to the appointment, etc., of police officers.  The letter indicated that he will be informed of the next step in due course. Apparently, the charges were filed earlier this month while Robinson was battling the legality of his first suspension, and many suspect that the latest action was pre-planned in case the suspended commissioner was able to convince the court that his first suspension was unfair and would be deemed null and void.
Robinson has indicated that he is in it to win and is ready for the long haul through the court system.
Judging by the actions of the PSC, they appear to be determined that the suspended commissioner never holds the position of top cop again.
While this battle rages, we cannot help but think about the impact that this spectacle has had, and is having, on the morale of the police officers who have to witness a very public battle between their ‘former’ boss and the PSC.  No doubt that there are more than a few who are loyal to Robinson and they will not be happy with the PSC’s latest salvo in this engagement.
It reminds us of the African proverb that says, “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.”  While this heavyweight fight continues, the morale of the rank and file of the police force suffers.
Many have already indicated their anxiety at the entire situation, openly wondering, if the PSC can do this to their former golden boy, what can they expect if they ever fall out of favour?
We are sure that Robinson gets the point, as we all do.  He appears to be unwanted in the role that he previously held.  We doubt that the outcome of any investigations will change that.  And at this point, we cannot imagine a scenario where he can return to his previously held seat and things return to the way that they were antebellum.  We cannot speak to the mindset of everyone in this battle, but that is certainly the feeling on the street and within the force, based on the feedback we have received.  
So what are the next steps?  We understand that Robinson wants to clear his name and prove a point, and we understand that those in authority do not want him to return.  At the same time, if both sides claim that they have the best interests of the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda at heart, then they must recognise that this public battle, with all the salacious accusations, is doing nothing but harm to the institution.  
What will Robinson inherit if he is eventually victorious and returns to the position of commissioner after years of litigation?  A force divided in loyalties and whip-lashed morale?  A perpetual fight with the PSC at every turn?  Is that the type of victorious homecoming he imagines, because those scenarios seems more likely than the ‘hoist on the shoulders’ victory celebration usually reserved for a popular conquest.
The same applies to the PSC.  What does a victory mean for them?  Sure it may indicate a stamp of authority, but at the same time, the damage would have been done.  The force will be divided, morale will have suffered and to many in the ranks, the PSC will be perceived as vindictive and authoritarian.    
One of the things that the court was asked to determine was “Is an appropriate, alternative remedy available?”  Taking that question beyond the narrow confines of the disciplinary process, we have to believe that there is one, but there are so many considerations that without knowing all the details, it is difficult to say for sure.  Is there an alternative remedy that does not rip apart the loyalties of the force and helps to heal morale rather than damage it?  Can there be a remedy that exists that represents a win-win situation for all parties involved?  Considering that there are serious allegations against the commissioner that require determination, can there be anything other than a court determination for the public and the accusers to feel that justice is served?
If there is no palatable remedy in these sets of circumstances, then what we face is a long drawn out, expensive legal battle that will produce a result that one side will not like and will be difficult to live with.  We get the sinking feeling that we should buckle up for a long, bumpy, mine-filled ride.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions. 

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