Sat | Dec 16, 2017

Garth Rattray | The evolution of the JCF (Part 2)

Published:Monday | August 28, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Part of the evolution of the Jamaica Constabulary Force is its ability to respond to and protect against violence if and when necessary, even with deadly force. I am a very strong advocate of human rights, but we have to expect the occasional, unavoidable use of deadly force when, despite the best efforts of our police, in 2009 we maxed out with 1,664 shootings and 1,682 murders among the citizenry and, in 2007, 19 police officers killed in the line of duty.

Because of a few dishonest and corrupt police, many people have an unfavourable opinion of the entire constabulary. There are corrupt individuals in every profession, but when it occurs within a profession whose members swear to uphold the law it becomes glaring.

The most egregious act imaginable is extrajudicial killing. The media exposes us to protests and statistics about police killings which give the false impression that extrajudicial killings are not rare.

Let me emphatically declare that any extrajudicial killing is wrong. Interestingly, patients from hardcore inner-city areas have given me their opinion of the circumstances that could precipitate such a thing. One patient related that he knew of a landlord who sneaked away from his home and called the police to say, "Di wanted gunman dem ah hide out inna mi yaad. If unnu come fi dem and dem live, me ah go dead!" People tell me that it's the scared citizenry who beg for the really bad and dangerous killers terrorising them to be gotten rid of.

In response to crime, police personnel have evolved from that routinely unarmed, Boy Scout-looking police to the well-armed constables of today. The assortment of police weapons include Smith and Wesson revolvers, 357 magnums, 9mm Browning pistols, Remington shotguns, Sterling submachine guns, Lee Enfield rifles, Uzi submachine guns, M16 assault rifle, M16 carbines, H&K MP5 submachine guns, Glock 17 and 18 semi-automatic pistols, 380 Browning and Walter PPK pistols.

 

SERIOUS CRIME PROBLEMS

 

And for mobility, from a few bicycles, cars and 'jeeps', the police have acquired various vehicles like the Land Rover, Toyota Land Cruiser, Prado, Mitsubishi Pajero, Mitsubishi Pajero iO, Isuzu Trooper, Suzuki Vitara, Isuzu Gemini, buses, trucks, Toyota Crown, Corona, Corolla, VW Amaroc, Hiace pickup, Mitsubishi L200 pickup, Toyota Axio, Suzuki Jimmy, Hyundai Trajet, Rav 4, Hilux, Nissan Tida, X-trail, Honda Civic, Suzuki SX4, armoured vehicles and many others. Those lists stand as an indicator of the serious nature of our society's crime problems.

Today's constabulary has several organisational units to cover: child abuse, sexual offences, special investigations, patrol (land and sea), narcotics, traffic, communications, forensics, technical matters, fraud, cybercrimes, terrorism, overt and covert intelligence gathering, community policing and so on.

But what intrigued me was the list of special crime-fighting squads/units formed by various governments in response to criminal activities over the years. These include Echo, Flying, Ranger and Eradication Squads, Area 4 Task Force, ACID, Operation Crest, Dovetail, Intrepid, the Organised Crime Unit, SACTF, CMU, Major Investigative Team and Operation Kingfish.

No matter how the police adapt and evolve, it is blatantly unfair to expect them to cure this 'societal disease' that we call crime. It must be tackled by multiple organisations with the constabulary being only one of them. Crime requires major social intervention and sustained support systems so that police intervention should be the very last thing in our armamentarium and only needed when all others have failed.

I understand that there is an upcoming name change, from the Jamaica Constabulary Force to something like the National Police Service of Jamaica. It's intended to "... ensure that the people of Jamaica has a police service that is responsive to their needs by embracing a community policing philosophy, which recognises the value of partnership and policing with the consent of the people".

Criminals are always finding ways to commit wrongs. The constabulary has been trying valiantly to keep up. However, our citizens have not yet realised that they are an essential element in the crime-fighting formula. It's always, the police must do this and the police must do that. Until we all unite and stand against crime, we will remain oppressed and subjugated victims of the criminals.

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