Editorial | Police don't need miracles
No one expects miracles from Novelette Grant. Neither over the next three months when she will act as the police chief, nor later on when, as is very likely to be the case, she is awarded the job on a permanent basis.
What Jamaicans will expect from the new police commissioner are clear, workable ideas for a strategic and tactical assault on the country’s serious problem of crime, including an acceptance of the crisis of confidence faced by the constabulary and a plan to address this problem.
Ms Grant is coming to the position because of the premature exit, after only two-and-half years, of Dr Carl Williams, who, we can only conclude, in the absence of a better explanation from the out-going commissioner, believes he has nothing more to offer. And she is doing so at a difficult period.
After four years with an accumulative one-third decline in murders, the past three years have seen an uptick in homicides, including last year’s 11 per cent rise, which doubled the rate for 2015. Indeed, the homicide rate, which had dropped to the mid 30s per 100,000 of population, is now hovering at just under 50/100,000. Clearly, law enforcement has long since lost the psychological leverage they gained in the aftermath of the 2010 security operation in West Kingston to take-out and extradite the notorious and politically-connected crime boss, Christopher Coke.
Force seen as inefficient
Further, the difficulties of fighting crime are exacerbated by the fact and perception that the constabulary is inefficient, substantially corrupt with large swathes of it hostile to the precepts of modern policing and many in leadership resistant to change.
On the basis of academic achievements, there is no doubt that Ms Grant, with her advanced degree in international studies and human resources development, plus other professional training in management, is qualified for job. She also has experience in various departments of the constabulary and is said to possess a high level of emotional intelligence.
The question to be faced, and answered, by Ms Grant is whether she can translate her education and training to effective action. Without a detailed declaration of her vision for the constabulary and a programme, we can only extrapolate from her public statements.
Don't expect any miracles
She said at a church service on Sunday: “Don’t look to me to create the world in seven days. I never claimed that power…and I will not be working any miracles, except that miracle comes from the people of Jamaica to renew their hearts and minds and attitudes to become our brothers’ keepers…by following the example of the Good Samaritan.”
We agree that hoping for divine intervention has no place in the job description of a police chief, including, we would argue, hoping for God’s intervention into the hearts of His holy subjects. What the police commissioner is expected to bring to the table is ideas, plans, policies, strategies and tactics for their execution. This is what we now to wish to hear from Ms Grant.
While we also appreciate that police officers perform difficult jobs, which sometimes require sacrifice, that doesn’t obviate the need for rigorous analysis of the Force and its performance, which, we hope is not what Ms Grant equates to “cuss, cuss, cuss”. Ms Grant may yet make an excellent police chief, but she must first be wary of falling into a defensive posture, as this could prevent her from being a transformative one.