Thu | Dec 14, 2017

Curtis Webley | Corruption rampant in police Traffic Division

Published:Saturday | July 8, 2017 | 12:00 AMCurtis Webley

I recently visited Jamaica after an 11-year hiatus. The warm weather, beautiful sunshine, phenomenal scenery, and the euphoria of home got the better of me as my wife and I exited Marcus Garvey Drive in Kingston on to Spanish Town Road on our way from the Norman Manley International Airport. Driving at about 60kph or a little faster, I was oblivious to the speed limit. Unfortunately, we were signalled to pull over by highway patrol officers.

I remained in a fantastic mood when the officer approached our vehicle. We exchanged pleasantries and I voluntarily expressed my exuberance to be home again. The officer asked for my driver's licence, and I guessed, after he realised that we had just spent minutes in Jamaica, he motioned me to his patrol car that was parked off the side of the street. I did not hesitate to join him as he sat in his vehicle while I leaned over his driver's side door window. We talked casually and he informed me that I could be fined $7,500 and lose four points off my driver's licence.

"So what can you do for me?" he asked. I was stunned but remained poised as I contemplated my next move. Is he soliciting a bribe so he could arrest me for bribing a police officer? I thought. If he is really looking for a bribe, who could I call to arrest this officer? What proof do I have except the US dollars I am about to give him? While these questions infiltrated my head, I put my right hand in my pocket to retrieve the money.

"No, man. No, no, no," he said. "Keep your hands in the car." Apparently he thought the money was in my wallet, which I held in my left hand in front of him. I realised immediately that this police officer was blatantly and overtly disrespecting me, the badge he wore, the Jamaican people, its laws, and the oath of office he took. I glanced over at his partner who was still aiming his speeding device at other motorists, oblivious, or pretending to be, to the situation. I paid the bribe, grinned hypocritically, and politely asked which traffic division he was attached to. "The Elletson Road Highway Patrol Division," he proudly exclaimed. I became indignant and left the scene feeling disgusted and angry.

For the next 10 days, I patronised the North-South tollway twice daily from Ocho Rios-Mammee Bay to Caymanas Estate. I was pulled over three times on this toll road in the vicinity of Unity Valley. I must admit that on two occasions, the patrol officers were very professional and friendly, did not asked that I exit my vehicle, and I breathed with relief after realising that their interest was not corruption and self-enrichment, but law enforcement as required by the State.

The third time I got pulled over, however, was comparable to the first. I had already developed a mindset that I would not pay anymore bribes and vowed that I would expose these culprits. The officer asked me to exit the vehicle, creating separation between my wife and me, which appears to be the modus operandi of these corrupt highway patrol officers. I was determined to vocalise my aversion to corruption. He acquiesced after a clarion moment of realisation that I was a foreign contributor to the local newspapers.

The fact is, I, among others, have written many articles on the topic of corruption in Jamaica.There are at least a dozen anti-corruption groups that have advocated for the betterment of Jamaica. Our attorney general, finance minister, justice minister, commissioner of police, politicians, and Office of the Contractor General all verbalise a willingness to stymie corruption, yet it is still prevalent and a major obstacle to domestic and global economic and social growth.

I come to the realisation that having corruption narratives on the books, and talking about what can be done to curb corruption, are perfunctory advertisements that will not solve anything unless governmental bodies become proactive.

Our political governance vocally expressed a zero tolerance approach to corruption eradication at all levels of government, but very little has been done to stymie this atrocity. This is because our affinity for political patronage, cronyism, and mediocrity continues as a real threat against corruption while the majority of our capable, integrity-filled university graduates, who worked diligently with the hope that education was the way out of poverty, sit idly like commercial cargo awaiting self-imposed export.

Until we develop a sustainable comprehensive resolution that fosters whistle blowing relationships, undercover accommodation, public humiliation, and speed and efficiency in arrest and prosecution, in the patrol division and other governmental agencies, our law-enforcement teams and other sectors of the government will continue to treat the symptoms but not the cause of corruption.