The outgoing head of the Police Welfare Association (PWA) has warned his successors to be prepared for betrayal by his or her executive, accusations of being a political operative, and to avoid the word “storm”.
Station Sergeant Brenton Smith issued the warning last Friday, Dec. 28, at the annual police awards dinner in Kingstown.
The association will elect a new executive, including a chairperson, this month.
Smith, who was making his final address as chairman of the PWA, urged officers to be supportive of the incoming chairperson.
“To the new chairman, leadership is not about power, but rather to serve your members selflessly. You must have love for humanity, whether it’s to provide financial assistance, corresponding with doctors and hospital administrators directly, your task, as chairman, will not be an easy road,” he said.
“However you must possess strength, willpower and be able to withstand the pressure that will confront. Fight for the well-being of your members…
“… once you have a contrasting view on any matter, you must be prepared to hear the following: ‘You come out of the bowels of the NDP’, ‘Don’t come back to my office; deal with the technocrats’, ‘I am so disappointed in your leadership’, ‘I will see to it that you lose the next election’,” Smith said, without attribution.
He continued: “Be prepared to be arrested for fighting for your rights and, please, don’t use the word ‘storm’. Be prepared for some of your own executive members who have their own agenda to leak voice notes during your executive chats. Incoming chair, I urge you to be strong and stand firm for what is right, but do so respectfully. Support the commissioner and the hierarchy of the organization, but never compromise your position for your personal gains.”
Smith praised the relationship between the PWA and Commissioner of Police Colin John, saying that when John was deputy commissioner, the relationship was shaky, but, as top cop, he has shown the PWA “respect, love and provided support”.
Smith’s reference to “storm” reflected on the 2017 incident, that resulted in he and two other members of his executive being brought up on internal disciplinary charges after a voice note from his executive’s WhatsApp chat group was leaked.
In the voice note, Smith said that the entire executive will “storm” the Office of the Prime Minister to seek redress for long standing issues.
However, Smith, along with police constables, Jeremain Roberts and Kenroy Martin, who were also transferred after the comments were made public, were re-elected to the executive.
Martin had also been brought up on internal disciplinary charges, which are also yet to be disposed of.
iWitness News understands that the Police Force decided to discipline the men internally after prosecutors determined that they could not be brought up on criminal charges for the comments.
And while the charges are still pending, iWitness News understand that Commissioner of Police Colin John, a lawyer and former prosecutor, along with the men’s lawyers, have essentially agreed that the internal disciplinary matter will not be called up for further hearings.
In his speech, Smith praised the hard work of police officers amidst lower crime stats in 2019.
He also used the opportunity to raise issues of accommodation for police officers, adding that some officers are living and working in bat-infested police stations.
“As our police are sacrificing their lives and family time, they are deserving to sleep and rest in proper working conditions, including being provided with basic amenities such as stoves, fridges, mattresses and television, to make their life as comfortable as possible,” Smith said.
He said that over the years, the PWA has filled the gap by purchasing “these very basic items for stations as we care deeply about the wellbeing of our police”.
He also said that the PWA has successfully lobbied for maternity leave to be increased from one month to three months and for policemen to get three days’ paternity leave.
“We … have fought for increase in salaries and allowances and I must say that at this very moment, we have a proposal for increase in allowances, which is presently before the Government. We also achieved a change in the age of retirement from 50 to 55 for those officers who have not attained the rank of sergeant by age 50.”