Fri | May 26, 2017

Garth Rattray | No to JCF management revolution (Part 1)

Published:Monday | January 9, 2017 | 1:00 AM

I reserved commenting on the impending upper-echelon changes in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) until now because I have many serious concerns coming out of this unprecedented situation.

Former Deputy Commissioner of Police Mark Shields has made public several of his thoughts relating to a few issues within the JCF. These include the upcoming selection of a replacement commissioner of police. I am absolutely certain that Mr Shields means well and that he has our country's interest at heart. I have a lot of respect for him, but I am concerned that his comments, as a former high-ranking policeman, as a celebrity, and as a British import, (you know how many of us still revere the British), will make whatever he opines carry a lot of weight. No doubt, Mr Shields is extremely knowledgeable, but matters of this magnitude require multi-dimensional examination of some of the issues.

Mr Shields believes that funds are being wasted on 15 gelding horses that cost taxpayers some $3 million per annum (0.0051 per cent of the Ministry of National Security's budget, according to a Gleaner piece). As far as I am aware, the JCF uses the Mounted Troop Division to establish a presence, for better vantage points, traffic and routine street patrol, crowd control and for ceremonial occasions. Small and poor, though we may be, I think that $3M per annum is worth the unparalleled stately resplendence that the JCF horses provide.

The former deputy commissioner of police has publicly stated that the force is top heavy and could do with far less deputy commissioners of police. He believes that the country could save millions in taxpayers' money if those ranks were trimmed severely. However, with the varied duties that the JCF has been mandated to perform, I can't imagine how only one or two or even three human beings can manage in that essential position. I know of the extreme stress that police personnel face and the responsibilities that mount exponentially as they climb the promotional ladder. Top officers work far more than 40 hours per week, they usually have several cell phones and a radio that is always on, streaming live communications across the island, many of which require urgent management and intervention.

Where we should focus is on the more than $301 million of taxpayers' money spent annually in rent, maintenance and parking. This continues although former Commissioner of Police Dr Carl Williams initiated the 'Special Building Project' at 103 Old Hope Road to replace some of the operations carried out in the severely dilapidated and condemned structures. The expatriates had to be accommodated off-site but our local, senior officers and other ranks must work in those structures.

 

WAITING ON FUNDS

 

Dr Williams also wanted to centralise some operations to save money and negate commuting time. Concerned and civic-minded private businesses started funding the project with minimal assistance from the Government. Members of the JCF provided all the labour. The 22,000 square feet, four-storey building is currently a shell, stalled and waiting on government funds for completion.

Because the special building project remains incomplete, we pay a combined annual parking fee of about $2.5 million, an annual maintenance of approximately $37.6 million, rental costs of over $40 million for two floors and rental of about $20 million for a separate floor - all at just one location. Centralisation would save taxpayers perhaps well over $100 million annually yet neither political administrations has done anything about that. Another spending that should be reviewed includes the expatriate many-multi-million-dollar programme recruitment. It was well-intended, but has it produced anticipated results or could those funds have been utilised to help modernise the constabulary?

Regarding the Police Service Commission (PSC) choosing the next commissioner, Mr Shields is quoted as saying: "They will require someone who is an excellent leader, a strategic thinker, a first-class communicator, a change manager, and someone who has sufficient innovation and courage to bring about these overdue changes in the Jamaica Constabulary Force ... If an internal candidate displays those qualities, then promote that person. But, I think it would be prudent to look outside the JCF at this time..."

Usurping the natural order of promotion would represent a managerial revolution, which failed in the past. What the JCF needs is an evolution. More next week.

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