Mark Wignall | Rocky road ahead for next commissioner of police
A fisherman heading off to deep sea at five in the morning in a single-motor, 15-foot boat. A taxi driver working the unpredictable streets of Kingston and MoBay between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Policemen on patrol on the graveyard shift in crime-ridden inner-city pockets. The commissioner of police, the minister of national security, the prime minister.
What do all of those occupations have in common? Significant elements of danger and thanklessness. Some, like the fisherman, the taxi driver and the cops facing potential peril at every turn may not have many options, but why anyone would willingly want the job of top cop, boss at the security ministry or prime minister beats me.
I was recently in conversation with a young corporal in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). He is bright and fed up of the present structure of the JCF. He is also a firm believer in community policing and social intervention from inside the police force as basic tools for his job. I expressed the view that the outgoing commissioner of police did not leave any impressive legacy that would shatter any of the destructive norms.
He said, "O boy, couldn't agree with you more, and we both know that an effective manager doesn't need to have all the experience first-hand and have all the answers, but he must have the know-how to mobilise, facilitate and empower his team to maximise their potential and perform optimally.
"That's the type of leadership I'm dying to see. Have not had as much of a glimpse of it since I'm here these five years. Pure ignorant, arrogant bullies who are too empty and shallow to appreciate or inspire positivity in their staff. They specialise in sanctions. Everything calls for a writing up in red ink and no rewards for exceptional work. How can you have an organisation operating like that in the 21st century?"
Another young policeman, a constable, told me of his interaction with two young men who have to report to the station he is at as condition of bail.
"They automatically become defensive when they report because it is the norm to treat them like common criminals and children. I interact with them, ask about their families, what they want to do later on in life. Because of that they even come to the station on days outside of their bail condition just to talk to me. Many of them have no support systems, and if the policing is not modernised to deal with that, it is only a matter of time before they fall back into more serious criminality."
THE MURDER RATE MAY FORCE AN EARLY ELECTION
The news of the killing of two teens on New Year's Day who were walking home from parties the night before is another shock to the nation that we could well do without. What can any official say to the mother of that promising Calabar student who met his end in so gruesome a fashion?
Oh, how the times have changed! I was 17 in 1967 and I can remember attending a street dance in Cross Roads at independence time. My seven friends and I left about four in the morning and walked all the way to Pembroke Hall/Arlene Gardens where we lived. The only dangers? Dogs and duppies.
Now, even the trip home in a car is considered dangerous. Among the campaign promises made by Andrew Holness was that the election of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) would result in many of the nation's people sleeping with their doors open. Considering that 2016 has ended up with 1,350 murders, an 11 per cent increase over 2015, that election promise has now taken on a sick newness; a pathological condition that is the very definition of our politics.
No one realistically expected murders to disappear, but when a politician on the stump runs his mouth on such a sensitive matter, promises us more peace, and instead, under his watch, we experience an increase in murders, we need to hold his feet to the fire. We need to remind him that if there is any one factor that will take him out at the next election it will be his inability to deliver policy to stem this seemingly uncontrollable tide of murders.
There is no doubt that the present JLP administration is experiencing unease on many fronts. It is also a secret no more that the present US government is no friend of the Andrew Holness administration.
With external pressures from the giant of the north and internal pressures from us tearing ourselves apart, more people than before are beginning to question the usefulness of the vote they placed on February 25.
Prime Minister Holness needs to be reminded that the energy brought to bear by social media, bloggers and v-loggers on YouTube, which resulted in the election of his friend, Donald Trump, has the very same potential to re-elect a more organised PNP. And not necessarily all the way to 2020.
I suppose the general attitude among our political and civic leaders is that what this nation cannot solve by workable political policy it will tackle by having one big prayer fest to send the fools a little further round the mulberry bush.
Our last security minister, Peter Bunting, was a great fan of reaching out to God when all else failed. Many of the reasons his policies to stem the murder rate failed were associated with the nasty and not-too-secret alliances between criminal gangs and rogue cops.
The present security minister is on his knees in the same church pew with Bunting trying to pray away the increasing murder rate. Gentlemen, some of us attended good schools and we are not all dunces disposed to be taken in by praying ministers of government preying on our supposed ignorance.
But, with all of that I am prepared to give this JLP administration a bit more time simply because I voted JLP on February 25 and I cannot bring myself to the early belief that mi bet buss. Plus, I have had many conversations with the security minister, Bobby Montague.
He knows that I don't buy into the exhortation to a divine entity that can, with the wave of a magic wand, wipe clean the mind of every dog-hearted murderer. But I know the minister is trying and he ought to know that as murders attain critical mass as it appears is happening in the early days of 2017, in a few months' time, 'trying' will no longer cut it.
One person, Diane Simpson, emailed a few media people the following: "It cannot be that the only candidates that are subjected to interrogation and public scrutiny, through the National Debates organised by the Jamaica Debates Commission, whenever they seek office, are politicians.
"Other persons must be publicly interviewed in venues such as the Jamaica Conference Centre and questions thrown at them by the media, Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, the Church, the Chamber of Commerce, and other civic groups. These persons include the following:
a. The commissioner of police
b. The chief justice of the Supreme Court
c. The contractor general
d. The auditor general, and others.
"This year, Jamaica will be 55 years old, and it is high time we conduct our affairs with much foresight and judiciousness as in other jurisdictions.We must all strive to make Jamaica a place to live, work, do business, raise families and retire."
Real governance must constantly evolve and it must do so to meet the increasing participation of the governed. The people have no idea what questions are thrown at these high officials behind closed doors by many who may be their friends and surreptitious allies, but who then give the appearance of full objectivity.