It is becoming clear with each passing day that the tenure of Trinidad and Tobago’s police chief Dwayne Gibbs and at least one other high-ranking expatriate officer hired under the previous Patrick Manning administration with a mandate to lower the twin-island’s soaring crime rate are very numbered, judging from the latest failing grade for the police top brass in the past week.
Some key insiders in the administration of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar want Gibbs and Canadian colleague Jack Etwaski to go because they are unimpressed with their management skills, level of understanding of the local culture and national nuances, as well as their continuing inability to wipe out gang activity and related violence.
In the past week, the umbrella Police Service Commission (PSC) told Gibbs, following their latest assessment that he “was close to the brink”, meaning that he is near to being asked to leave the island because his services are no longer needed.
Gibbs, Deputy Chief Jack Etwaski and scores of other high-ranking police and foreign-born intelligence sleuths, were hired by Manning to help reverse a skyrocketing murder rate averaging nearly 400 killings yearly, with the country earning the title as one of the murder capitals of the world, centerted on gangland violence, widespread corruption and narco trafficking.
Many have already been sent packing for various reasons since the new administration took power nearly two years ago, but the two Canadians have managed to survive a plethora of calls f or their resignation from both sides of the political divide. This, however, is the closest they have been to actually being pushed.
But apart from a drop in the murder rate when authorities had introduced a controversial state of emergency last year, not that much has changed and so officials are now looking to see the value of what citizens are paying to keep Gibbs and Etwatski at the top of the force.
Gibbs’ annual salary is listed as US$205,000. Etwatski earns a little less as a deputy chief.
PSC Chairman Ramesh Deosaran said, after the most recent rounds of hearings that Gibbs was told in no uncertain terms that his performance after more than two years, was “is less than satisfactory and terribly lacking”.
Asked by legislators why Gibbs in particular has not been shown the door, the PSC boss replied: “We haven’t set a deadline for when we will decide. We are sifting through the evidence.”
Their appointment had met with some skepticism when it was first announced and from all indications, the two high-earning officials are being blamed for much of the ills of the T&T society.
The PSC says that internal polls it conducted over the months have indicated that junior officers don’t have much regard for Gibbs and rate his performance “as very unsatisfactory.”
There are also telling signs of cultural differences and approaches between Gibbs, a white Canadian, and the local folks in influential positions.
The commission recorded its anger with the top sleuth by saying that responses to key questions about the status of cases and probes “have been dilatory and obscure.”
“Rather than answering, he kept asking what we wanted them for. That tendency of disrespect seems to be growing, seems to be increasing and something that we as a commission would have to take a direction on in the very near future,” Deosaran said, as battle lines are drawn.