Rushing To Put Out Fires Is Not a Plan To Eradicate Crime

At the risk of sounding like a broken record I must reiterate that if there is no strategic plan with measurable metrics aimed at rooting out crime in Jamaica the problem will not only persist but get exponentially worse.

Commissioner Carl Williams may be among the most qualified Police Commissioners in the world but being academically qualified does not equal being up to the task.

Commissioner Williams a PhD is the head of a force of over ten thousand officers and a department which is a third world force with third world strategies and third world infrastructure and government support.

  

New York City’s police Commissioner William (Bill) Bratton  attended Boston Technical High School, graduating in 1965. From there, he served in the Military Police Corps of the United States Army during the Vietnam War.[w] Bratton now heads the NYPD the world’s largest and most sophisticated police department. Presently Bratton is on his second stint as Commissioner of the NYPD having served under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

In most colleges and universities in the United States life experiences are vital credits toward obtaining  degrees. Bratton’s public profile is a case study on how a life of experience can be just as important as being a Scholar  . In addition to being Commissioner of the world’s largest police department he was formerly the Commissioner of the Boston PD,. Prior to becoming Commissioner of that Department  he held several senior positions within the department. Additionally he is also the co- founder of Bratton technologies . He also has interest in several other private sector companies including the Bratton Group.

Commissioner Bratton’s resume stands as a strong counter argument to the narrative that Good Policing requires a litany of letters behind one’s name. I say this with the utmost respect for what members like Commissioner Carl Williams and some others in the Jamaica Constabulary Force have accomplished academically.

A policeman places markers at a crime scene on Delamere Avenue, St Andrew - Image via jamaica-gleaner.com
A policeman places markers at a crime scene on Delamere Avenue, St Andrew – Image via jamaica-gleaner.com

However it is because of my intrinsic knowledge of the unique nature of the island’s policing that I argue that the time it takes to get the PhD’s and the Masters Degrees makes it literally impossible for a serving member to fully grasp the Jamaican style policing in the practical.

A PhD may be good for writing policy papers but good crime fighting techniques are developed over time and that is indispensable in the fight against ruthless criminals.

I too am extremely proud that the Commissioner of Police can address the media without me having a violent cringe attack. The Island needs a police department that operates better.

Commissioner Williams does seem to care about the high levels of crime and he does show the necessary empathy to victims of violent crime. Despite that, what the families of crime victims need from the Police most of all is certitude that perpetrators will be brought to justice. 

  

In 1991 I sat in on a basic detective training course at the Police Academy which to the best of my recollection was a 6 week seminar that taught basic criminal investigative techniques. One of the things I learned in that training course which is indelibly etched in my mind to this very day is this: “No greater task may be given any man than the responsibility to bring the killer of the innocent to justice“.

I held and still hold that charge dear to my heart because it encapsulated everything I ever believed as a police officer. From the very first time I put on a uniform and stepped out in the streets I had a core belief deep inside me that no major crimes should go unpunished. More importantly I held fast to the belief that when offenders commit crimes and they are not held accountable it emboldens them to commit more serious crimes . I believed then as I do now, that this sets in motion a process which if not addressed erodes the rule of law and supplants it with anarchy.

That ship may have already sailed for Jamaica despite protestations  to the contrary. The discipline known as policing has been reduced to media clips and sound-bites laced with platitudes and promises which are never fulfilled.  As I have said previously, it requires a special kind of person to run to explosions when everyone else runs away .

Many people are brave and have a whole lot to say as long as someone else is taking the risks. I never worried about those who had the most grandiose arguments about what needs to be done and how to do it, as they would never step forward to actually get involved. Every real police officer is conversant of the Monday-morning quarterbacks and the key-board Generals who know exactly what to do though they have never done it.

In the early 1990’s Mayor David Dinkins new York City’s first Africa-American Mayor embarked on a program with the police department called” safe city safe streets“.
The program was a coordinated strategy between City Hall and One Police Plaza which was geared toward using the political clout of the administration and the City ordinances to tackle petty offences in the city.
It was a strategy which saw officers walking the beat and taking action where necessary to clamp down on squeegee-men, graffiti-artists and other quality of life offences. The strategy was not one of sticks only there were carrots as well, police officers built serious bonds with the communities which helped significantly in lowering crime.

The program took on an ominous turn when Dinkins was succeed in City Hall by Rudolph Giuliani who adopted a more strident brand of policing which had racial end ethnic components withing it in a program called ( COMPSTAT) ,  combination of management, philosophy, and organizational management tools. COMPSTAT is now used by many police departments across America . Supporters of the program believes in data driven policing which they say produces results. Detractors say the numbers arrived at using COMPSTAT are nothing more than quotas , which forces street cops to engage in undue or over-policing of minority communities.
That debate rages as America’s police forces become more and more militarized and isolated from many of the communities they are supposed to serve.

The Administration which was just replaced in Kingston did not seem to have a desire to empower the Police to go after criminals. Even though the Administration mouthed the words which would make it seem that criminality would not be tolerated . It was unwilling to expend any political capital to bell the cat. As a result the poorly trained, poorly equipped, poorly remunerated police department was left holding the bag on crime.

Instead of seriously going after criminals the Administration gave more and more power to the INDECOM Act to go after police officers. Government can go after criminals wherever they are whether they wear police uniforms or they operate in the inner cities and enclaves of the Island.
We can guarantee citizens rights while empowering and supporting our police officers , these two initiatives are not mutually exclusive.

The Commissioner has neither implemented a workable strategy to interact and inject massive amounts of foot patrol officers into communities. Neither has there been as serious approach to getting the investigative capabilities of the force up to standard . Putting up crime scene tapes and bringing in a scene of crime van does not an investigation make.

The Commissioner of Police is neither blind nor deaf he must see the litany of videos where police officers on the streets are being assaulted, berated, ridiculed, and totally disrespected whenever they try to make simple arrests.
In many cases it is a single officer against the community, at other times there may be another officer but he or she stands by as a spectator. This is absolutely a lack of proper police training.

  

At the first inkling that a suspect is going to be belligerent that suspect must be taken to the ground handcuffed and carted off to jail. The longer the scene plays out the more agitators join the fray and the more emboldened the suspect becomes the less likely it is things will end well.

There is no unwavering support from the Commissioner nor any of the other top officers in support of the officers on the streets. Subsequently officers are unsure, and hesitant. The high command of the JCF seems more suited for a fancy dress party than actually getting the job done.

The police training which is still the old , “left right left right , up down up down” is as cartoon-ish as the cummerbund-clown suits officers are forced to wear. The Commissioner of Police would be better served if he places before the new administration a plan to protect police officers as they do their jobs.

That plan should include components which remove the INDECOM Act from the equation.
The Present Party is the party which tabled and passed the criminal supporting piece of legislation that has seen crime go up with no end in sight. The former administration hid behind it effectively while doing nothing about crime. Sure there are less police killings but it’s not because there aren’t gunmen wreaking havoc.
The stark reality is that officers simply do not want to get tangled up in the nonsensical bureaucracy of the INDECOM Act.

Sure Jamaica’s police officers need to have strict rules governing the use of force including lethal force as does all police departments. The INDECOM Act is not it.

This Administration operating on a one seat majority in the legislature is less likely to do as much about crime as can be deduced by the deafening silence on the issue. I am inclined to believe that with precious little political capital this administration will be even more cautious on the issue.

It will not want any perceptions it is siding with the police to root out crime after all” every man haffi eat a food“. Simply removing a street vendor from the streets in Jamaica, though the correct thing to do risks an uproar which casts the Government as insensitive to the plight of poor people.

Such is the case when political parties politicize law enforcement by allow criminals to hold sway over the rule of law.
The challenges for the new administration are many, not the least of which is how to execute its growth agenda amidst a river of blood and even with will, precious little political capital.

By Mike Beckles – Check out his blog HERE

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