Submitted by Turtle Soup in response to Stephen Alleyne’s Under Scrutiny: Ciao, Bertie!
When his junior, Darwin Dottin, was promoted to Commissioner of Police, Bertie Hinds had to make a decision to do his best to support Dottin’s leadership and direction, or if he could not support the new Commissioner, to do the honourable thing and leave the Royal Barbados Police Force. Hinds had several good offers at the time in both government service and private industry and could have exited the police with best wishes from all in the larger community and a ‘well done, good and faithful servant’ from the vast majority of police personnel. He undoubtedly would have been successful in any new position where he was in ultimate charge because the man has vision and is a capable leader and policing professional.
“Stay and work to support the new police leadership, or leave – those were the two honourable choices. But Hinds chose a third option…”
Instead of going quietly or accepting his lot and doing his utmost to support the new Commissioner and his beloved Royal Barbados Police Force to the best of his ability, Bertie Hinds decided to stay and fight the new Commissioner of Police at every step – which he did most strongly for nine full years. As the clashes with Dottin became more serious, more frequent and increasingly public, the senior management of the RBPF became ineffective and split with various senior officers choosing sides. There were battles in court, and dirty tricks by Dottin and Hinds supporters. The focus of senior management (and increasingly by junior personnel also) shifted from serving the community to internal politics and conflict.
All of this was because Mr. Hinds could not discipline himself to say “Yes, Sir.” to the man whom Barbados chose over him to be the leader of the Royal Barbados Police Force. Some observers believe that Hinds thought he could someday be Commissioner of Police if he undermined Dottin sufficiently, and indeed during the battles there were calls from Hinds supporters to fire Dottin and promote Hinds.
Could Hinds have made a better Commissioner of Police than Dottin?
Possibly, even probably – but so what?
Dottin’s promotion and appointment was legal and it was the decision of those who were lawfully charged with making that decision. For whatever reason Hinds was not chosen and Dottin was.
Whatever Darwin Dottin’s professional and personal failings, he deserved better from Bertie Hinds than he got right from the start. As Commissioner of Police, Darwin Dottin deserved respect, support and most of all loyalty from his senior officers because anything else in a military organisation is destructive and undermines the public confidence in the institution.
Bertie Hinds has left the Royal Barbados Police Force, but the organisation and the community at large will be many years recovering from the decade of conflict and chaos in the senior leadership that Hinds could have stopped at any time by submitting his resignation or saying “Yes, Sir.”
Readers are encouraged to visit the Barbados Advocate to read Stephen Alleyne’s Ciao, Bertie! but unfortunately BFP must reprint the entire piece here because the Barbados Advocate has in the past deleted news stories to suit political agendas. As our post is based upon Alleyne’s article, we must preserve a copy…
Under Scrutiny: Ciao, Bertie!
By Stephen Alleyne
Tomorrow the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mr. Bertie Hinds, will say goodbye to the men and women of the Royal Barbados Police Force as his more than 44 years’ service in the 177-year-old organisation comes to an end.
Undoubtedly, the majority of the force’s members will wish him well in his future endeavours. A few, it is expected, will not spare the time even to pay lip-service to the veteran police officer’s contribution to the force and his country. Will Commissioner Darwin Dottin condescend to do so? I don’t think so. It is virtually impossible for Dottin to have anything positive to say about a deputy with whom he has had a tumultuous relationship for the past nine years. The enmity between the two highest-ranking officers in the force is what, to my mind, has precipitated the gaping division and low morale evident in the organisation today, but there are a number of other contributing factors.
In a previous article I identified the breaking-point in the organisation as early as 1999 when the decision was taken by the Police Service Commission to make Dottin senior to Vernon Wilkinson and Hinds, both of whom were senior to Dottin at the time, on their promotion to the rank of Assistant Commissioners of Police.
However, the force underwent a metamorphosis under Dottin’s leadership. Officers of all ranks for whatever reason, and the evidence is available, became the focus of a phone-tapping campaign, the object of which is still somewhat vague. The evidence nevertheless suggests that the exercise was to determine their political affiliation rather than any involvement in criminal conduct or corrupt practices. For example, certain members of the Police Service Commission, Deputy Commissioner Hinds, former Senior Superintendent Graham Archer, former Senior Superintendent Morgan Greaves and a number of junior officers who performed duties with Members of Parliament were the principal targets.
At the same time, a number of things considered integral to the development of the force ground to a halt. For example, this Commissioner of Police, described by Opposition Member of Parliament Dale Marshall as one of the finest police officers in the Caribbean, has not convened an annual force conference since 2008. A force conference is the forum where the rank and file are given the opportunity to make their contribution to the force’s policy. The result is that the rank and file have been silenced and the feeling among the junior ranks is that Dottin has effectively thwarted any potential confrontation with them.
As far as discipline is concerned, the disciplinary tribunal (the Commissioner) has met once between July 2011 and July 2012. Under former Commissioners Orville Durant and Grantley Watson, the tribunal heard matters once or sometimes twice a month as the exigencies required. Generally, police officers who have outstanding disciplinary matters hanging over their heads are not promoted once those matters remain unheard. Dottin’s failure to hear disciplinary matters in a timely manner has therefore denied, and continues to deny, several police officers of promotion.
Then there is the problem of the issue of firearm licences. When Dottin became Commissioner of Police he established a three-man committee to determine the issuance of firearm licences, removing the discretion to grant or refusal of licences from one person alone. This was a good decision in that it brought fairness and transparency to the process. However, the committee seldom meets and the consequence is that applicants have been paying their application fees to the police department and have not been getting the service they paid for.
I have said all of the above to sketch the kind of force Mr. Hinds is leaving behind as he takes leave. Sadly, there are still quite a number of officers who would not want him to go at a time when the force is at its lowest ebb. He is perceived by many to be the one person who can keep the ship on course. Unfortunately, the ship’s navigational equipment has long malfunctioned, and it is going to take more than GPS (Global Positioning System) to bring it back on course. This is a task for younger heads.
I have known Bertie Hinds for a long time; we patrolled the beat together 35 years ago as constables, and in the early 80s we reunited when we were transferred to work in what used to be the Traffic Branch. Hinds excelled in academia and would have received the bulk of his promotions during the tenure of Commissioner Durant who rewarded officers who did exceptionally well academically. The holder of a master’s degree in criminology, Hinds for the past four years has been lecturing part-time in criminal justice and criminology at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI). And this too was abhorred by his Commissioner who tried to frustrate him by failing to submit his application to do private work as required by the rules of the Public Service.
In closing I want to wish Mr. Hinds well and urge him to continue lecturing at the UWI which will keep a fertile mind well nurtured. Lest I forget, I am well aware that there are some senior people in the force (some past ones as well) who have been quietly critical about some of the comments I make in this space concerning the goings-on in the organisation. I want to state publicly that the critics are welcome to reply orally or they can pen their responses in this paper under a pseudonym if they lack the guts to state their real names.
(Stephen Alleyne is an attorney-at-law and former member of the Royal Barbados Police Force. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)