Thu | Aug 24, 2017

Editorial | In the shadow of Commissioner Williams

Published:Saturday | December 24, 2016 | 12:00 AM

The impending resignation of Police Commissioner Carl Williams has coincided with news that a boat stolen from the marine police in Negril in February was found scrapped and abandoned on a beach in Honduras.

It must have been a woeful sight for onlookers in Kingston to observe the Jamaican police towing the bald remnants of the Boston Whaler back to our shores.

The recovery of the scraps of the vessel donated by the United States government to aid in the fight against crime and Dr Williams' resignation are unrelated, but in our eyes, this brazen act of criminality mirrors exactly what is happening elsewhere in the society. Criminals are running amok across the length and breadth of Jamaica, robbing, killing, and maiming with impunity.

Quick arrests and convictions are the most visible measures of police success. Imagine then that a boat stolen from under the nose of the police is found beached in Honduras minus its engines and navigational equipment, and after 10 months, the police still have no understanding of how it happened.

The explanation offered by Assistant Commissioner Assan Thompson, that the boat which was stolen in February was in retaliation for the confiscation, days earlier, of a Honduran vessel, is as laughable as it is frightening.

How can it be tit-for-tat that the Jamaican police, acting under the aegis of the law, seize a vessel and for foreign criminals to retaliate by snatching a police boat? Was there collusion between the police and these foreigners? Is this not the ultimate challenge to law and order and national authority?

 

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

 

If Assistant Commissioner Thompson is correct in his assertion, why has the crime not been solved? There are still many unanswered questions surrounding this incident.

From private-sector boardrooms to schoolrooms, performance measurement has become a critical management tool. It is no different in considering police impact on crime because law enforcers are the most visible agents of the criminal justice system in the country.

Even though it is understood that not all crimes can be prevented by the police, statistics is one important measure of police success. And these have been spiralling out of control in many areas of the country.

The last couple of years have been challenging for Jamaican law enforcement. Experiments with leadership from outside the force and promotion from within the ranks have all failed to reduce violent crime to any appreciable level, or even to protect our citizens, particularly women and children.

The waning of confidence in the ability of the police to keep citizens safe has been a boon for private security firms and the sale of expensive security apparatus. From businesses to churches, management has been gradually looking to private security firms, not the police, to keep people and property safe.

With the departure of Dr Williams, the Jamaica Constabulary Force must move on with new leadership. While all eyes are currently trained on career policewoman Novlette Grant, we must reinforce the need for a new commissioner to establish clear and precise operational standards and set a tone that will inspire public confidence in the ability of this venerable organisation to fulfil its mandate to serve and protect.