Thu | Nov 23, 2017

Patria-Kaye Aarons | Clean up the force, then the streets

Published:Tuesday | August 30, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Last week, the commissioner of police made a revelation that made me soil myself. It was a revelation, however, that to me explains a lot about the ineffectiveness of, and corruption in, today's force.

He admitted that 46 per cent of recruits this year were rejected because they failed a polygraph test. These aspiring police officers were turned away; not because they told little white lies. According to Commissioner Carl Williams, those turned away comprised persons actively involved in lottery scamming, persons affiliated to gangs, who had handled illegal guns and who were described by him as "habitual thieves".

And these folks were brazen enough to apply to be police officers. Determined to strategically place themselves on the inside.

Had it not been for the lie-detector test, some of these very criminals would have become gun-carrying, secret-accessing, power-wielding demigods. And you and I would pay them a salary to commit their crimes in uniform.

It begs the question, before this, how many other criminals did slip through the cracks? How many of the current members of the constabulary are tainted?

A constabulary force of sorts was founded in Jamaica in 1716. It was reshaped to its current dispensation in 1835, and since then, this is the first time scientific means were used to assess the character and trust-worthiness of the aspirants.

Commissioner Williams highlighted that those who failed all had glowing recommendations from justices of the peace and ministers of religion and other persons of such ilk, and these were the character references the force had relied on up until this point.

 

JAMAICA'S PROBLEM

 

The results of this polygraph test are the only data we have to go by. Using that as a benchmark, it isn't unfair to deduce that the ratio of 'good cop' to 'bad cop' in the force today is similar - that almost half the existing force could possibly be "affiliated to gangs" "lottery scammers" and "habitual thieves". If that's the case, Jamaica needs a do-over.

If that's the case, it's worth the effort and the expense to test every single member of the force. Everyone. Root out the rotten apples now. Until you do, Jamaica's crime problem will never subside. And the efforts of the hard-working, decent police officers will always be undermined and sabotaged by the crooks inside. Time to clean house.

The other thing the situation highlighted to me was the ineptitude of the force. Rightly so, criminals have scant regard for the arresting powers of the police. They are certain that law officials won't catch them, even if they are under their very noses.

I ask the commissioner, how many of the 46 per cent have been arrested? How many of the 88 have you now opened case files on and are doing intense investigations with a view to charging them for illegal activity?

You know for sure the crimes these men and women are guilty of. They presented themselves to you. Plopped themselves in your lap, barefacedly took lie-detector tests and invariably admitted to participating in the worst crimes fuelling Jamaica's demise.

What do you do? You simply reject them from the force and release them back into the streets to carry on with the crimes they were committing before. And then you ask the public to volunteer information? Wow. Just wow.

No amount of body cameras can fix Jamaica's crime problem. If the very entity charged with serving and protecting is stink with the sore of corruption, don't expect gadgets and forceful empty words to reassure people.

If you are serious about cleaning up the streets, start by cleaning up the force.

- Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and findpatria@yahoo.com, or tweet @findpatria.