Thu | Aug 24, 2017

Editorial | Commissioner Quallo's role in economy

Published:Wednesday | April 12, 2017 | 4:00 AM

As far as honeymoons go, George Quallo's will be over before he hits the sheets on April 18. Which is a pity. For Mr Quallo, a 40-year veteran of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, would have loved, we assume, to revel, if only for a few days, in the achievement of becoming the country's 29th commissioner of police.

The nation hopes that the Police Service Commission, which undertook the vetting of candidates for the job and made the final selection, chose Mr Quallo because he was the best man for the job, based on superior experience, team-building skills, savvy and intelligence, irrespective of gender or other considerations.

This newspaper does not entertain the ageist myopia of some who instinctively question whether Mr Quallo, who will be 59 in August, has the capacity to be a transformational leader who will overhaul the constabulary and trigger a paradigm shift in public perception.

It is this wall of perception of the police force as a relic of 1867, characterised by inefficiency and corruption, that has hardened public distrust and contributed to the huge number of unsolved crimes.

 

SPIKE IN MURDERS

 

When Mr Quallo steps into his office at Old Hope Road, he must lead an assault on galloping murders. Even though the police force has done a commendable job of curbing some major crimes over the past few years, murders have shot up. National optimism after the decisive blitz of Christopher Coke's militia in Tivoli Gardens in 2010 has cooled. A funk has set in.

Homicides in St James were at record highs in 2016, and despite the deployment of soldiers to Montego Bay and neighbouring towns, the bloodletting remains graphic. Special legislation and gang-busting pressure by the police have not resulted in the decisive pushback in this war of attrition. Gangs disperse and then reconstitute; or they splinter into factions that engage in internecine clashes.

The upshot is that much of the Jamaican public - including the business community - is crippled by fear. Of course, Mr Quallo, alone, cannot win the war. The Holness administration, in the lead-up to the February 2016 general election, promised Jamaicans that if the Labour Party returned to power, they would be able to sleep with their windows and doors open. That has been a pipe dream. The Government should, with the deployment of more resources, give Mr Quallo a fighting chance of succeeding at what is arguably the most difficult job in Jamaica.

If the new commissioner commits himself to leading a sea change in law enforcement, this culture shift could redefine the constabulary as a key partner in Jamaica's attainment of the ambitious economic growth and development indices it chases, something which the Economic Growth Council, through its chairman, Michael Lee-Chin, has emphasised.

Safety and security, both in perception and reality, are crucial intangibles that grease the wheels of the economy. Downtown Kingston, the heart of the capital, is generally a ghost town at night because people don't feel safe. When people don't feel safe, they are less inclined to eat out and party late, shop, or patronise bars or other venues of leisure and entertainment.

Prosperity depends not only on the Government and private sector, but also on the police.