Commissioner of Police Colin John on Thursday morning held what is believed to be his final Commissioner’s Parade as chief of police in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
John, 55, a lawyer and career police officer, has obtained early retirement in a shocking development that came amidst a wave of killings in the country.
The homicide count this year stands at 40 and includes the five males shot and killed in Kingstown on July 19.
Then, just five weeks later, on Aug. 24, news broke that John had applied for early retirement.
Commissioner’s parades are general closed-doors affairs but retired Commissioner of Police Michael Charles allowed the media to cover his final parade as top cop.
However, the Police Public Relations and Complaints Department told iWitness News on Thursday that the media would not be allowed to attend John’s final parade at the Old Montrose Police Station.
Someone who attended the parade told iWitness News that John greeted everyone on parade by shaking their hands and thanking them for their service.
The parade was followed by a lecture in which he formally thanked officers for their service and shared with them his journey towards becoming a police officer and his experience in law enforcement.
He further offered words of encouragement to the officers.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who is also minister of national security, announced on Sept. 15 that John had applied for and obtained early retirement.
Gonsalves did not say when John’s retirement would take effect, but said that a new police chief would be in place by the end of this month.
Constitutionally, the prime minister can determine who becomes commissioner of police, and there has been much speculation about who would replace John.
Some persons have noted to iWitness News that the prime minister might observe the chain of command, meaning that the deputy commissioner would become the police chief.
This would mean that everyone in the top brass of the constabulary would move one rank up.
However, if the prime minister were to promote a superintendent to commissioner, only one person would be promoted to fill the vacant superintendent space, with the ripple effect doing down the ranks.
Others yet have said that the prime minister could buck things, as he did when he promoted Keith Miller from an assistant superintendent to commissioner.
Sources have said that if the prime minister goes this way, Enville Williams, an assistant commissioner of police, is most likely to become the police chief.
There is also speculation that this could be the prime minister’s opportunity to give the nation’s its first female police chief, to join its first woman governor general, attorney general, minister of foreign affairs, and speaker of the House Assembly.
Meanwhile, at a press conference in Kingstown, on Tuesday, Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday, opined that SVG needs as its police chief someone “to instill public confidence in the police service and to make it more effective as a crime fighting institution.
“So, the person would need to be an independent-minded person, meaning to say that they do their job professionally,” Friday said.
“Where the evidence takes you, you go with the investigation; where there needs to be an investigation, that the commissioner, leading the way, demonstrates the independence to do so.”
He said that the new commissioner must command the respect of all officers.
“That is critically important, especially in a disciplined organisation, as the police service. To have a good record as a crime fighter, somebody who will stand up and do what is necessary to bring law and order, to maintain it in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, to investigate offences from the smallest to the most serious offences so that they can have confidence, public confidence built in the police service.”
The opposition leader said the new police chief must be a good communicator, especially with the public.
“That has been sorely lacking over the years in the police service. The new commissioner must be willing and able to engage the public on important matters and to keep the public updated on the status of high-profile investigations.”
He said that too often when there are high-profile crimes, primarily homicides, there is some discussion of it for a few weeks then the matter simply falls away from public attention.
Friday noted that his New Democratic Party had been calling for the police chief to demit office, but said he is not naïve to think that John retired because of the opposition’s calls.
He said that the new commissioner of police should have been announced by now.
“It does not help in any way, or inspire confidence in the police service and the public to have such an important appointment dangling for such a long time,” Friday said.
“So, I call on the government to ensure that this appointment is done soon. There’s a lot that needs to be done, to deal with a lot of … unsolved offenses in this country,” Friday said.
“There is an urgency within the public, to have the police doing the work and doing so effectively. And you can’t do it with the leadership hanging in the balance undecided for over a week.
“That cannot instill confidence among the police and the rank and file and certainly not amongst the members of the public. It needs to be dealt with and dealt with immediately,” the opposition leader said.