Tue | Dec 12, 2017

George Davis | Justice blind, deaf and dumb

Published:Wednesday | June 21, 2017 | 12:00 AM

As columnists and commentators, we are under pressure every time we craft a piece for the newspaper or prepare an opinion to deliver on a radio or television talk show that we must have a solution to the problem we are commenting on. In principle, that expectation is reasonable.

But how often in thinking about the solutions to some of the biggest problems confronting this country, such as crime and violence, do we come up empty when we dig for an approach that is both workable and never been thought of by any other commentator or public official before?

 

Fear of getting shot

 

Given the grim realities of living in this country, I am being truthful when I say that I expect, reasonably, to be the victim of a gun crime at some time in my life. If you think I am being alarmist, do a random survey of persons under 40 years old who've left these shores for North America or Europe. Ask them if the fear of getting shot by hoodlums wasn't a motivator for them turning their backs on this country.

Now before anyone writes me off as being sensationalist, just hear me out. Having studied the history of crime in this country, read through more than my fair share of publications analysing the social fabric of Jamaica and the factors motivating violent crime in this quasi-paradise, I conclude that the justice system, comprising the security forces and the courts, are incapable of catching criminals, convicting criminals, and reforming those who are amenable to such intervention.

My opinion is girded by a recent revelation by the police commissioner, George Quallo. The police chief says the court system is so logjammed that "the 967 persons we arrested for murder last year and the 284 we arrested up to June 10 this year are not likely to face trial until 2024". Despite the huge sums spent on improving and increasing the mobility of our police personnel across the island, there are still numerous instances where law enforcers are incapable of providing timely response to distress calls or to do routine patrolling, simply because there are not enough vehicles.

On Monday, media reports confirmed that for the past three months, the lone motor vehicle assigned to the Nain Police Station in St Elizabeth was in the garage. Sadly, this example is closer to being the rule, especially in rural Jamaica, rather than the exception.

The US-based organisation, Freedom House, was founded in 1941 as a vehicle

to champion the advancement of freedom globally. In the year 2000, it published its annual report, noting that in Jamaica, "(Prime Minister P.J.) Patterson promised to staunch Jamaica's 'rampant criminality' by introducing new efforts to control guns, creating a new police strike force targeting organised crime, and reintroducing the death penalty. The get-tough promises came after criticisms from key leaders of the vital tourism industry joined a crescendo of complaints from Jamaicans of all walks of life demanding an end to a more than two-decades-long upward spiral of mostly drug-related street crime."

Fast-forward 17 years and all that has changed from the Jamaican situation as assessed by Freedom House is that Andrew Holness has replaced P.J. Patterson as prime minister. Multiple crime plans have been implemented, with Mr Quallo being the seventh man to serve as police commissioner since 2000, while the country's security portfolio has been managed by as many different men.

 

Are we safer?

 

Ask yourself, do you feel safer in Jamaica in 2017 than you did in the year 2000?

The police have a hard time. They could get all the forensics and vehicles that money could buy, but what use would those be if serious murder cases continue to take nine years to move through the justice system?

The police seized about 700 illegal guns last year and are on pace to eclipse that mark this year. And yet there appears to be more men with more guns than at any time in our history.

It's not that I'm sitting down waiting to be shot. But at the rate things have been going, with the hearts of Jamaicans seemingly darker than ever, it's almost certain that the one-eyed god will be turned on me. Or you. Selah.

- George Davis is a broadcast executive producer and talk-show host. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and george.s.davis@hotmail.com.