Home Affairs Minister’s conduct challenges professionalism of Police Force- Slowe’s legal submissions

(Chairman of the PSC Paul Slowe and Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn)

Chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC) Paul Slowe has levelled a series of allegations against Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn whose conduct, he says, challenges the professionalism of the Guyana Police Force. Slowe, a retired Assistant Commissioner of Police, is currently facing fraud charges and is under investigation for allegedly sexually assaulting a female Police officer.

Prime Minister Mark Phillips has written to Slowe asking him to show cause why he should not be removed as Chairman of the PSC given the charges and accusations against him. Slowe has since responded in an affidavit drafted by his lawyer Selwyn Pieters. Among other things, Slowe has accused President Irfaan Ali and Home Affairs Minister Benn of interfering with the functioning of the Police Force.

According to Slowe, before the PSC could have released its 2020 promotion list of senior ranks, Benn, wrote the Commissioner of Police directing him to institute proceedings to charge several senior officers including Senior Superintendents Edmond Cooper, Phillip Azore, and Kurleigh Simon who had all been shortlisted for promotion. Slowe claims that he became aware of the letter on December 24, 2020.

He said that the letter was accompanied by a covering memo signed by Senior Superintendent of Police Calvin Brutus who is performing duties as acting Deputy Commissioner “Administration.” It is Slowe’s view that “this letter had clearly been designed to influence the Commission not to promote certain officers,” Slowe said, adding that this issue was compounded with the involvement of Brutus.”

Brutus wrote to the three officers providing notice of criminal investigations being conducted by the Criminal Investigation Department, a clear conflict of interest since he stood to benefit in some way from the law enforcement abuse of process, which the hastily contrived allegations, represents.”

Slowe said Brutus’ conduct is a conflict of interest and amounts to discreditable conduct because he acted in a manner prejudicial to discipline or likely to bring discredit to the reputation of the Police Force. Nevertheless, Slowe said that the PSC met again on December 30, 2020, to continue deliberations on promotions. At that meeting, he added that Minister Benn’s letter to the Top Cop was discussed.

According to the retired officer, it was observed that Brutus had signed the covering memo in his capacity as acting Deputy Commissioner “Administration”.

“The Commission found this procedure to be highly irregular, as all documents emanating from the Guyana Police Force to the Commission are signed by the Commissioner or on his behalf,” Slowe said, adding that “Due to the serious irregularity of Brutus’ signing on his  [Commissioner of Police] own behalf. Slowe stated that the secretary of the PSC advised that the minister’s letter be ignored.

He said that the PSC duly ignored the letter and continued its deliberations, ultimately arriving at a final list of persons to be promoted which was released the next day.

The Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn and Senior Superintendent Calvin Brutus conduct presented challenges to the professionalism of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Guyana Police Force. No citizen should face a contrived criminal investigation as an improper basis to persuade a constitutional body to abdicate its constitutional responsibility and bend to the will of the Head of State…” he noted.

The PSC Chairman pointed out, “Senior Superintendent Calvin Brutus is exploiting his relationship with His Excellency President Mohammed Irfaan Ali and Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn his professionalism, in going above the Commissioner of Police head, and writing directly to the Police Service Commission, where he stands to benefit, calls into question his judgment and his ability to continue to function as the acting Deputy Commissioner “Administration” untenable. This conduct has brought discredit to the Guyana Police Force.”

President Irfaan Ali has denied claims by Slowe that he tried to influence the PSC in its promotion of officers. “I find it convenient and opportunistic that Mr Paul Slowe would make the accusation that I tried to influence him and the work of the Police Service Commission. This is not only far from the truth, but it is a malicious attempt to change the narrative,” the statement from President Ali read.

Back in December 2020, Brutus was the first to challenge the promotions that were made by the PSC. Now, several other senior Police officers have been added as interested parties. Brutus complains that he is being overlooked for promotion to the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police, even though he was recommended for promotion by the Commissioner of Police.

He claims, too,  that he is being bypassed for promotion owing to frivolous allegations of indiscipline levelled against him for which he has not been given a chance to defend himself. Following the filing of the case, Chief Justice Roxane George, SC, granted a conservatory order halting the promotions until she makes a pronouncement on the matter. The Chief Justice is likely to deliver her ruling on June 18.

The aggrieved officers have vowed to take the matter all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). By Article 212 of the Constitution of Guyana, the PSC has the power to promote police ranks above the rank of Inspector. It also has the authority to exercise disciplinary control over ranks holding or acting in such offices.