Wed | Oct 18, 2017

Michael Friday | Rescind harsh JCF resignation policy

Published:Wednesday | September 13, 2017 | 12:00 AM

During my years of service as an assistant chaplain with the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), I developed a deep insight into the force, and a great admiration for the women and men who served, for the most part, in difficult, and frankly, unreasonable and often inhumane, circumstances.

Some of the observations I made in the latter years of the 20th century still prevail into the second decade of the 21st. Given those circumstances, I come out to bat for the folks who declare it to be a very bad idea to place a requirement over JCF members for a six-month notice of resignation, and criminalising the breach of that requirement.

My friend and Gleaner columnist Devon Dick calls it "draconian"; I thought to call it something worse, but will opt, instead, to call it devoid of vision.

What the powers that be should be doing instead is pursuing a system that addresses the reasons for the grave levels of attrition from the JCF which, by any measure, is a crisis.

Admittedly, the JCF is besieged by, and fraught with, a plethora of problems and crises. It is not my intention (or competency) to offer recommendations for every problem or crisis. But I would like to begin by urging the rescinding of this JCF policy and discouraging the Government from making it law. This policy will backfire badly and will be counterproductive.

I want to make one suggestion: The JCF needs a massive and broad Human Capital Campaign. This is not merely human-resource management; it is a commitment to view and treat every JCF member as a human being, not merely an employee or a means to an end.

The JCF top brass has argued that the six-month measure is to enable better management. But the moment we begin to focus more on management (which is about the efficient movement of systems and things) without a concomitant focus on leadership (which is about the effective motivation of people), we are preparing for epic failure amid a sound measure of human frustration.

 

NEEDS MANAGEMENT

 

I contend that the JCF needs leadership far more desperately than it needs management; it always has. Leadership transforms; management does not. Hence, we never hear about 'transformational management'; we know, instead, about 'transformational leadership'.

The JCF needs to be reconfigured so as to enable commanding officers to be (a) sufficiently trained and (b) adequately supplied so as to offer every JCF member the individualised consideration, inspirational motivation, idealised influence and intellectual stimulation needed to transform the individual and, by extension, the organisation.

It may be that every single JCF division should be supplied with a 'transformation officer' (just as they now are, with a commanding, administration and crime officer), where that officer's role is chiefly or only the development of the human capital within the division, vis-a-vis the development of the division as a human organisation, and each of the four is trained in the rudiments of leadership in general, and transformational leadership in particular.

Out of this kind of initiative and leadership might flow other things such as job sculpting (as crucial for a newly gazetted officer as it would be for a probationer constable) and job performance management and enhance-ment - items I found nearly completely absent during my time and still desperately yearning for attention, now.

A running joke that many a police person uttered to me was, "Rev, the JCF doesn't care about our welfare; they care about our farewell."

This six-month regulation now threatens to remove even the care about the farewell, and that is wrong. Should the JCF (via both its operational officers and policymakers) begin to place urgent emphasis on people's wives, husbands, sons, daughters, and neighbours as human beings, who fare better when their welfare is cared for, it would not have to worry about their farewell.

Then, the following should gradually become things of the past, and the attrition rate should begin to recede: the culture of vindictiveness; the denial of promotion for all kinds of spurious reasons; the inability to secure promotion because of genuinely poor performance or inadequate development; injury to marriages and families because of lengthy absences or distantly remote assignments, or poorly managed timetables; and being consigned to work in or from buildings not fit for rats. These would not all happen overnight; but it seems to me to be a good start.

- The Rev Dr Michael Friday is a transformational leadership and change specialist with the American Baptist Churches, USA, and interim pastor of the Union Baptist Church of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and rev_manfriday@hotmail.com.