Cut and bring back
It began like most Saturday afternoons. The Beast, Gene Autry and I were seated around the domino table, twiddling our thumbs and racking our brains as to how to raise a fourth. Suddenly, off in the distance, floating on the mild breeze, we heard: "... If a macca, mek it jook yu!"
The Beast was sent to ensure he made it to the table and, soon, we were off and running with radio (tuned to racing commentary by lege.nds Del Weller and David 'Wall of Horses' Vernon) on the side. In the very first 'six', The Dunce, sitting below the poser, disgorged six-five as his first play to the double-six pose; I played five-four; The Beast contributed six-blank; and Autry followed up with double blank. The Dunce, whistling a happy tune, played four-six. And that's how the fight began.
"Dunce," The Beast began patiently as soon as the game was lost, "why you cut and bring back six?'
The Dunce's eyes glazed over: "Pardi, me no 'ave no more four."
"So, why not play on the blank side?"
"But, pardi, you push blank."
"No, Dunce, I cut the pose. It's different. You're supposed to be a domino player. Don't yu know not to cut and bring back, except you have no other play?"
I remembered that game as I listened intently to new Police Commissioner Carl Williams' induction speech. It was a good speech that hit all the correct notes. But I couldn't shake the nagging feeling I'd heard it all before.
Commissioner Williams said: "I want to assure the people of Jamaica that, under my leadership, the JCF will do everything within its power to respond to your concerns about the conduct of the police. We'll ensure that there's accountability at all levels in the JCF, and our police officers will be held to the highest standards of integrity."
This is an old promise expressed, as usual, in grand but vague terms. What'll be refreshingly new is if it's kept. Within days of his induction, TVJ carried a story of police arriving at an accident scene involving a colleague in improperly maintained, unsafe vehicles, and CVM TV carried a story of a citizen, who reported an automobile break-in, being advised by the police to bring the crime scene to the station.
Former Commissioner Ellington sought to excuse the use of an important piece of evidence (cell phone) in police custody by asserting the call made was only six seconds long. No policeman was disciplined. The commissioner applauded the police's work in that matter. Only after being pressed by a determined Dionne Jackson-Miller did Ellington say, in a most dismissive manner, that procedures would be improved. Did I fall down a rabbit hole?
MUCH MORE MURDERS
Police are killing three Jamaican citizens EVERY WEEK. This new commissioner gave no specifics of his plans to eliminate that appalling statistic. Jamaicans want to hear definite plans to reduce lethal weaponry carried by police and the tendency to shoot first. Allegations of callous slaughter of alleged innocents, despite the presence of cowering, eventually uncooperative witnesses persist albeit the advent of INDECOM seems to have induced additional caution in execution.
Does Carl Williams believe his job priority is to change the police force's bloodthirsty nature? Ellington told Dionne: "We regard killings committed by police in the course of their duty as justifiable homicide. We don't consider them extra-judicial killings." Is Ellington a judge? On what authority does he pronounce any killing "justifiable homicide"? Did judges order these killings? Do police understand what "extra-judicial" means?
Carl Williams' speech made no explicit mention of this widespread, soul-eviscerating evil. Does he also believe there's no problem? He said, "The vast majority of police officers serve with honour and dignity ....Yet, too often ...there are those whose actions violate the very rights we've sworn to protect. We cannot allow this to continue."
Okay. What's the plan to stop it? Recycled platitudes won't cut it anymore. Any commissioner unprepared to acknowledge police corruption and criminality as endemic will always find himself/herself at odds with Jamaicans who see it and know it.
We keep appointing commissioners who've risen through the ranks, then cutting and bringing them back. Different domino; same number. Francis Forbes suddenly took early retirement in '05. Lucius Thomas spent two years as commissioner before bolting in 2007. Now Ellington has departed in a cloud of dust. Too much cut and bring back.
To reform an endemically corrupt force, officers can't start as beat cops. Commissioners must begin as officers.
Peace and love.
Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.