Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Ray Ford | Police Commissioner Williams and the business of leadership

Published:Monday | January 2, 2017 | 1:00 AM

It was the morning of February 24, 1990, at Sabina Park, the first day of the first Test match of a new England-West Indies Test series. George Prescod, - the operations manager at the cricket ground, had just emerged and was strutting. Immediately, he was swarmed by the English press. "How will the pitch play George?" one blurted. Prescod, not one to be ruffled, paused and then answered in his usual measured tone. "If you can bat, you will make runs. And if you can bowl, you will take wickets." And then he walked off. Mr Prescod could not be bothered with delving into the many variables that could affect a Test cricketer's performance. After all, this was Test cricket. And a Test cricketer, by his travels, should know that some pitches are livelier than others; some grounds are breezier than others; some conditions are more stifling than others. Regardless, was Prescod's message far more far-reaching than just in cricket? Might it be that in business, in leadership, in life, as it is in cricket, conditions must be assessed, and adapted to, for them to be overcome?

Might not this same adaptation be required of a good leader? All things considered, if one is a good leader, then regardless of the circumstances, shouldn't one then be effective? Particularly if, in the public's eye, one of whom much was expected did not live up to the billing. Regardless, for the benefit of aspiring leaders, questions like this one has to be asked.

As his tenure draws to a close, the public is beginning to ask, who should be appointed to succeed Commissioner Carl Williams as head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). Because of the far-reaching tentacles of crime, as far as its costs - both human and capital - to society, and its debilitating effects on our economy in Jamaica, the post of commissioner of police, who is viewed as our chief crime-fighter, and his performance on the job, must and should come under scrutiny.

Let's examine murders for instance - the one statistic with which most of us Jamaicans are concerned. In 2014, murders in Jamaica were 1,004. In 2015, that number was 1,192, or 45 per 100,000. And as the year 2016 closes, murders for this year might exceed 1,321, and edge up to 49 per 100,000. Of course, the reason(s) for this increasing trend in murders committed cannot be all placed on either the JCF or at the feet of Commissioner Williams. But clearly, in cricket parlance, the JCF under the leadership of Commissioner Williams has not been taking wickets. And as he begins to reflect, Commissioner Williams is lamenting that behind him, all hands were not on deck, as some were holding hands with corruption.

 

NOT A FREE ENTERPRISE

 

The commissioner, who assumed office on September 15, 2014, had spent close to 31 years climbing up the ranks before he assumed the force's highest rank. Two things are, and should be, baffling to some. The first is that, as the commissioner might want the public to believe, in his 30-odd years in the force, he was not privy to even water-cooler conversations as to who was doing a little bit better in life than they should, and then ask the question `why?', or, `how come'? The JCF is not a free enterprise, and for those aspiring to a leadership position, it's their duty to know. And if they know, then they should act. And if they don't, then they can't blame the prevailing wind. Some of us have to bowl uphill, and into the wind.

 

THE BUSINESS OF TRUST

 

In policing, in a professional police force as Commissioner Williams professes his to be, he cannot have a police officer put a defective pair of handcuffs on a suspect, especially in a police station, and have that suspect wiggle himself free, as occurred in the Waterford station on December 4, last. And a police force cannot be called professional by its chief if its patrol boat is stolen from under its nose, as occurred in February of this year.

Who was the arresting officer who plunked the defective pair of handcuffs on that suspect in Waterford? And who was on duty at the police docks in Negril, Westmoreland, when in `unexplained circumstances' to date, that police boat was unmoored? Not having the public know the fate of those police personnel who were responsible, is not a situation which reinforces the case of the JCF as being professional. Instead, it lends more to the narrative that under Commissioner Williams, the JCF is a poorly administered, `anything-goes', unprofessional organisation. Is this perception emboldening criminals, and causing the public to lose faith in the ability of the JCF to police?

- Ray Ford has been freelance writing for 34 years. He holds an MBA degree in marketing from Michigan State University.