Sun | May 28, 2017

Editorial: The rabble-rousing Sergeant Wilson

Published:Wednesday | August 26, 2015 | 8:00 AM

Almost anyone with a bit of charisma, loud mouth and willingness to talk in extremes can be a rabble-rouser. Serious leadership is another matter. That is hard business, demanding thoughtful engagement.

Of the two, Raymond Wilson, the chairman of the Police Federation, is proving himself not to be the latter. Indeed, his constituents, members of the constabulary, up to the rank of inspector, should worry about where he might take them. The public, too, has deep cause for concern.

Sergeant Wilson has been in the post for a long time, and one measure of the worsening calcification of his leadership is his ongoing campaign to poison people's minds against INDECOM, the agency that investigates complaints of excesses against the security forces, and the vulgarity with which he chose the platform of a funeral to serve his hemlock. His is a well-used strategy - induce fear.

It has improved a bit in recent years, but the police force in which Raymond Wilson serves was established along jack-booted, hard-knuckle, paramilitary lines and which, up to recently, had a deserved reputation for behaving with impunity. The police used to, on average, kill more than 200 citizens annually, most of whom were reported to be 'criminals' on the losing end of gunfights with constables. These accounts were often disputed by citizens.

Additionally, 80 per cent of Jamaicans perceived the constabulary to be corrupt, and the majority didn't trust the police to investigate themselves. Prior attempts of independent investigative agencies failed because insufficient powers made them effectively beholden to the police.

Five years ago, the Independent Commission of Investigations was launched as a commission of Parliament, under the leadership of Terrence Williams. It has taken its role seriously. It is hardly a coincidence that police homicides are now half of what they used to be.

But some constables are unhappy that they are being made to be accountable for their behaviour. Sergeant Wilson has not attempted to fathom, or explain, why INDECOM and its posture are good for the credibility of the force and Jamaica. An overarching construct like the intrinsic value of adherence to human rights is lost in the din. Sergeant Wilson seems capable only of articulating the frenzy of the crowd - as was the case a fortnight ago when he used the thanksgiving service of a slain policewoman to suggest that because of INDECOM and its insistence on accountability, criminals, somehow, have greater rights than law enforcement.

 

Appeal to fear

 

If Sergeant Wilson's logic is taken to its insipid conclusion, it would be a demand that police personnel have the right to operate without restraint. The implied justification would be Jamaica's high crime rate, including more than 1,000 homicides annually and a murder rate of around 40 per 100,000. It's the appeal to fear.

Acquiescence would be a surrendering of democratic and civilised order and to provide an aperture where authoritarian disorder could find purchase. Sergeant Wilson would better serve the police, and Jamaica, with a campaign for increased civilian oversight of the management of the constabulary, such as Peter Bunting, the security minister, used to champion when in Opposition.

Sergeant Wilson should also encourage his union to agree to the Government's wage offer, to which other public-sector unions have, in the context of Jamaica's situation, sensibly acceded.

Or, he might resign.