Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Garth Rattray | Saboteurs In the constabulary

Published:Monday | December 26, 2016 | 12:14 AM

For me, the Yuletide season began with an exclamation mark. The usual Christmas hustle, bustle and hustling were evident everywhere. The pile-up of cars going through one particular traffic light intersection was very sudden and unexpected. I was caught out in the open when the lights went from green to amber.

Fortunately, the road-hog taxis causing the blockage eased a little forward. This gave me the opportunity to exit the intersection just as the light went to red.
Of course, as (bad) luck would have it, a young constable stopped me mere metres from the intersection. I pulled over and did the usual thing – rolled all my windows down and turned off the engine. He was very professional - at first. He told me that he stopped me because I went through the red light. I said that I was not going to argue but I wanted to explain what happened. He said that he would listen to my explanation.

But after I finished speaking, he began reciting the cost of the ticket for that offence and the number of points that it would put on my driver’s licence. That made my passenger and I believe that he was using his uniform and authority to hustle (‘eat a food’). He asked me to produce my papers and to join him outside the vehicle.

He told me that he did not intend to give me a ticket but that I should leave a drink money with him. Long story short, I explained that I couldn’t do that; perhaps under different circumstances but not under those circumstances. We parted ways and I left feeling very embarrassed for him, disappointed, sad and concerned for our country.

It wasn’t just that one uniformed cop was busily hustling on a Saturday afternoon - that was horrible in its own right. However, truth be told, he’s not unique. In fact, so many police personnel are hustling, shaking down and extorting civilians that the public (mistakenly) believes that most cops are dirty.

I happen to know that this is a terrible misconception but, thanks to the crooked police out there, we really don’t know which ones we can trust.

Policemen and policewomen are thoroughly trained in policing techniques and procedures and they are tutored in human rights and ethics. However, as soon as they are exposed to seasoned miscreant police, they are told that their salary cannot support them or adequately compensate them for the risks that they must take every single day. They are further told that some senior officers did the same thing and are probably doing the same thing now.

I knew a businessman who paid several police personnel ‘protection’ money.

Extortionists murdered him anyway. I do not agree with paying anyone protection money but, obviously, the police were collecting protection money under false pretences.

I had a personal experience of a rogue cop whose files went missing and reports altered in his favour. Because of his crooked cohorts within the force, despite my numerous official protestations, he was never charged with anything. In fact, he was promoted and retired with a clean record.

In another matter, I was approached by an investigating officer who invited me to ‘talk to him’ to have my complaint expedited. I guess he didn’t know the type of person that I am; he was wasting his time.

Policing is never only a job, it carries with it a ton of responsibilities. Police personnel represent law and order and fairness in our country. They are the only barrier between us and vicious, murderous criminals. They are the ones that stand between order and anarchy. The uniform that they wear is supposed to represent strength, protection, justice and goodness.

Every time the police use power for personal gain or for wrongs, they sabotage the entire constabulary and should be dealt with appropriately and severely.

With crime the way that it is in Jamaica, we need an abundantly and manifestly clean police force. I hope that resources will be dedicated to catching rogue cops in sting operations until the bad apples cower in fear and cease their nefarious activities. They bring distrust, disrespect and dishonour to the constabulary.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.