The government has been advised to walk back a proposed amendment to the Police Act CAP 330 as the head of a police service commission, a former commissioner of police, a regional security professional and a member of the opposition have all decried it as unconstitutional.
The Police Amendment Bill 2017, which was passed in the Lower House of Parliament, on Friday, seeks to impose ministerial control over the transfers of policemen.
Speaking on the topic during yesterday’s edition of The Big Issues, Chairman of the Caribbean Association of Security Professionals Oral Reid labelled the draft legislation which passed the Lower House last week as “a dangerous step” which “serves to extend greater control over the police commissioner” and which “emasculates the police service commission”.
Antigua & Barbuda’s former Commissioner of Police Vere Browne, who was also on the panel, said that the Constitution of Antigua & Barbuda makes sufficient provision for the transfer of officers by the authority of the Police Service Commission (PSC) and advised Public Safety Minister Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin and the Cabinet to “revisit” the Bill.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the PSC of Barbados, Richard Guyson Mayers declared that at the least, the contentious Bill “comes very close” if it does not violate the Constitution but said “the chances are that it does”.
Mayers’ argument hinged on Section 104 of the Constitution, which confers upon the PSC of Antigua
& Barbuda the same autonomy and protection from external directives as are conferred on the PSC in Section 99 (11).
Section 99 (11) states: “The Commission shall, in the exercise of its functions under this Constitution, not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority.”
According to Mayers, the same protection applies to the PSC of Antigua & Barbuda due to Section 104 which states: “The provisions of subsections (2) to (15) … of section 99 of this Constitution shall apply in relation to the Police Service Commission as they apply in relation to the Public Service Commission.”
Section 7 of the Bill states inter alia: “The Minister may, after consultation with the Commission, direct the Commissioner to transfer any Gazetted Officer to any department of Government for which the Minister is responsible…”
Meanwhile, United Progressive Party (UPP) Spokesman on Legal Affairs Leon Chaku Symister was adamant that “this act violates the Constitution” and “it creates dual jurisdictions for the transfer of high ranking officers”.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)