Wed | Aug 15, 2018

Gordon Robinson | A Herculean task

Published:Tuesday | January 24, 2017 | 12:00 AM
National Security Minister Robert Montague has a tete-a-tete with acting Commissioner of Police Novelette Grant at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, on January 17. While Montague has made plain his preference for the top cop to emerge from the ranks of the constabulary, columnist Gordon Robinson says real reform will only come from outside.

Playing against the Beast and the Dunce, the score was 5-all; I was down to two of the worst cards I'd ever held in domino history, namely double-five and double-blank. Gene Autry played hard five to the Beast, who ran to the other end and, with his penultimate domino, played blank. I was distraught as the Dunce only had one domino left and I couldn't affect the course of the game. Although, on the face of it, I had a choice, it was really a compulsory play, as double-five was under the kosh, plus it just felt wrong to keep such a high-counting domino in my hand so late in the game, so, with a silent prayer, I played double-five and was relieved to hear the Dunce pass.

Autry had four dominoes left. I was pretty sure one was the last five, which happened to be five-blank. That's when I realised maybe I should've taken a tad longer over my play so he'd know I held a blank. He took his time (a notorious Gene Autry trait), then shrugged his shoulders and blocked the game. "Count, gentlemen," he announced "I can't win."

"How'd you know?" I asked as I gleefully turned over the winning double-blank. "Know what?" he asked distractedly, already advising the Beast he should shuffle to begin the next six. "That I had double-blank."




"I didn't," he explained with a sheepish grin. "Two blanks were out and Dunce didn't have any. If I cut the blank, Dunce wins. If I go two blank, the Beast's blank wins before yours, so I really only had one play. Whichever one held double-blank was the winner."

It was an example of Hobson's choice, which, in my opinion, is the identical pickle now fed to Government in the aftermath of Police Commissioner Carl Williams' abandoning of the ship. The recent history of that important national office, beginning with Francis Forbes, moving through Lucius Thomas, Owen Ellington and now Carl Williams, has more resembled a hundred-metre dash than a settled career.

Like it or not, the JCF has become a politicised institution, just like so many of our Jamaican establishments. Lucius was considered by many to be a 'PNP' commissioner who was very popular with the rank and file. He appeared to confirm this by stepping into his track shoes shortly after the JLP win in 2007. He was replaced by Owen Ellington. After the 2011 election, my impeccable sources high up in the JCF told me Ellington was felt to be a 'JLP' commissioner, while the second tier of leadership was almost exclusively PNP. Accordingly, it was expected Ellington didn't have long before he would be replaced, and my sources were able to predict, many months before the event, that Carl Williams had already been hand-picked to succeed Ellington.




Accordingly, I was able to make this prediction in columns long before sudden events accelerated Ellington's departure, but because I only referred to the commissioner-in-waiting as 'The Truth', I suspect my prophecy went unrecognised (as do many of my columns' hidden gems) except by boxing fans. For example, I wrote (October 21, 2012: 'Censuss', crime and lame ideas):

"Right now, the police force resembles a tribal entity divided along political lines where a JLP-appointed commissioner must endure a former commissioner and PNP candidate, now a consultant in the Ministry of National Security, interfering with the day-to-day operations of the police force clothed as 'mediator'. Why? Is he concerned he might lose his job if he objects? Is there a cadre of PNP sympathisers below him in rank circling like sharks ready to pounce? Who next? The truth? Are police focused on the task at hand or is there too much infighting? How will they react to a sincere effort from the political directorate to properly equip them?"

Whether fact or perception, incidents like a PNP former commissioner inserted as mediator into an internal JCF crisis followed by the JLP commissioner's refusal to assist the prosecution with a statement; and a JLP commissioner quick to allege that a PNP mayor is a lottery scammer, has reinforced the public's view that the force is hopelessly politicised, in addition to being almost irretrievably corrupt.

Only a commissioner from outside the JCF has any chance of cleaning those Augean Stables at, which is a prerequisite to crime reduction. Legal/academic qualifications like master's degrees/PhDs don't mean diddly. What's required is independence of mind and action. Let the search for Commissioner Hercules begin. It's Hobson's choice.

Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to