Wed | Sep 20, 2017

George Davis | Does police chief command respect?

Published:Wednesday | May 11, 2016 | 5:00 AM
Commissioner of Police Dr Carl Williams.

Jamaicans increasingly do not seem to like our police commissioner, Dr Carl McKay Williams. I can hear the sound of chairs moving as several persons, especially those closest to the police chief, leap to their feet to reject this claim. They'll say the claim is dressed in nonsense and that Dr Williams enjoys the respect and admiration of many, as he leads the hard-working men and women of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) in an unrelenting battle against agents of violent crime.

The cheerleaders will assert that Dr Williams, based on his academic training and his years in the JCF, is better placed than any commissioner since the dawn of the new millennium to preside over the modernisation of the force and the neutering of the gang culture that has been responsible for the bulk of murders in this country over the last 25 years.

Commissioner Williams' supporters will say that this former student of Frankfield Comprehensive High School, now Edwin Allen High, is a country boy's hope and not his pipe dream. They'll tell you that when poor Jamaican boys speak of, and aspire towards, success, Dr Carl Williams is what they might mean.

Looking at Dr Williams, it's hard not to believe that many of the things which his defenders use to shield him from criticism form the basis for the lack of love he gets from the Jamaican public. Perhaps his defenders, as I strongly suspect, do not read the social-media message boards and realise that the fact of Dr Williams' paper qualifications and claims about his education are a significant part of the reason for the disdain with which many treat the mere mention of his name.

 

SPEAK WITH AUTHORITY

 

The commissioner earned his PhD in criminal justice from Sam Houston State University in Texas. That institution, which was founded in 1879, is not only prestigious, but is the third-oldest public school of higher learning in Texas. And because Dr Williams published several academic journals in criminal justice and criminology, along with lecturing extensively on both those areas in the United States, his critics believe they have a right to expect he would speak with authority whenever he comments on matters concerning his portfolio.

Detractors ask the question, how can a man who has so much book learning, who has risen so steadily through the ranks of the constabulary, appear so wishy-washy when he speaks on matters concerning crime?

They question the benefit of his learning, or any learning for that matter, when the learned individual does not transmit this knowledge when they speak. They ask, rather crudely, about why anyone would want to emulate Dr Williams in being filled with learning and book experience and yet be unable to put them into practice.

The constant refrain from those who diss the police commissioner is that 'him can't talk', as if the holder of such a post is nothing if not washed in the amniotic fluid from which the great Michael Manley emerged to charm his way into the hearts of the people and the skivvies of women who were at one time loyal to friends and Comrades of his.

Then, when his supporters say talk is cheap and that their man is a performer, his critics fire back and say that with the murder numbers for 2015 - Dr Williams' first full year in charge - moving to their highest level in five years, the police chief cannot claim to be a man of action and not a bag of mouth.

Those critics would have also got more fuel for their fire from the news that at least 32 police personnel have sued the police commissioner for the spectacular failure of a programme meant to be used for the training and promotion of qualified members to the rank of deputy inspector. Ask yourself, when previously in the centuries-old history of the JCF have police personnel taken their own boss to court?

Dr Williams cannot succeed without the backing of us Jamaicans and members of the constabulary. Based on current attitudes towards him, it appears as if not many members from either constituency will move if the police chief says, "Please show your hands, those of you who love me."

Selah.

• George Davis is a broadcast executive producer and talk-show host. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and george.s.davis@hotmail.com.