Commish wasn't pushed - Outgoing police chief says early departure of his own volition
Outgoing Police Commissioner Dr Carl Williams last night bristled at suggestions that the country's rising murder toll influenced his decision to step down next month.
Williams, who took over as the nation's police chief in September 2014, also confirmed assertions by the Andrew Holness administration that he was not forced out of office.
The Gleaner broke the news yesterday that Williams wrote to chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC) Professor Gordon Shirley indicating that like his predecessor, Owen Ellington, he would opt for early retirement.
In the letter - a copy of which was obtained by The Gleaner - Williams said that he would demit office on January 6 and indicated that his decision was based on personal reasons.
Last night, the PSC announced that Deputy Commissioner Novelette Grant would act as commissioner for a period of 90 days, starting January 7, during which time steps would be taken to select a new police commissioner.
National Security Minister Robert Montague described Williams as one of the finest public servants the country has ever seen.
"There has been no hint of anything unprofessional about him. He has brought a number of critical techniques and changes to the force. We respect his decision to go," Montague said.
Setback for JCF
Williams is the fourth police commissioner since 2005, and former deputy commissioner Mark Shields called his impending departure a setback for the JCF.
With murders up five per cent this year across the 19 police divisions islandwide, the outgoing commissioner pointed to some of his accomplishments in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) to quell speculation that he was overwhelmed by the crime situation.
"I have served at times when crime has been higher. We have had years in which we have had 400 more murders than we have had this year, and we have come through that," Williams said during an interview on the RJR radio programme 'Beyond The Headlines'.
"I've served at a time when Jamaica was the leading country in the Caribbean for the transhipment of drugs. I played my part when I was the head of [Police] Narcotics [Division] and we reduced the drug trade from what was 30 per cent of drugs passing through this region to about two per cent," he said.
"So I am not afraid of challenges. I will take on any challenge."
He indicated, in his letter to the PSC chairman, that his decision to retire was communicated to Montague two months ago on October 18 and insisted that he was not asked to step aside.
"No pushing, no nudging, no nothing. I'm leaving entirely on my own volition," he said.
"My retirement is provided for on the basis of my age and years of service," Williams noted in his letter to the PSC chairman.
Montague, who initially declined to comment, revealed late yesterday that senior members of the Holness administration, as well as members of the PSC, tried to get the commissioner to reconsider his decision.
"I have made numerous efforts to have him change his mind. Appeals were also made to him by my colleague Dr [Horace] Chang, the prime minister, and other ministers, and I know the Service Commission has engaged on several occasions, but he has insisted that he wants to move on to explore new options," Montague told The Gleaner.
"If he was pushed, certainly it was not by this administration because we had a discussion from October, and we have been asking him to hold on. So if we had pushed him, he would have been gone from October," he added.