Thu | Jan 21, 2021

Keith Gardner | In defence of Commissioner Quallo

Published:Thursday | September 14, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Security is the foundation on which societies dating back to early civilisation were built. Today, security is regarded as the foundation on which firms, industries, and nations are built.

If that foundation is faulty, the structure is liable to collapse. If a government is unable to provide security at every part of its geographical borders, the result may be increased vulnerability to threats from invading forces.

The guns, drugs and lotto scamming are multibillion-dollar criminal activities that, in some cases, surpass the GDP of small-island states, such as those member states in CARICOM. Their open borders are largely unprotected, their relevant proximity to each other and to South America increases their vulnerability. This is buttressed by globalisation with its rapid increase in technology, communication and travel, which reduce territorial borders to a mere construct of the human mind.


Cruel criminal


In Jamaica, these threats are compounded by certain criminal actors who are among the most cruel in the world. Armed with high-powered automatic rifles and semi-automatic pistols, they form themselves into criminal gangs that are hired by scammers, ganja farmers, persons seeking reprisal (murder for hire), the war for turf and more guns and drugs.

The complexity of these heinous crimes, which include misogyny, murder and attacks on our women and children, create a fear in the society that is debilitating. The results are clear and present.

First, the crime rate scares away potential investors. Second, productivity is reduced as persons become virtual prisoners in their homes for fear of being attacked on our roads.

The JCF is under the leadership of a commissioner of police, who is tasked with the security of our nation. It is the responsibility of the commissioner to translate the security policy of the government into operational activities that will enhance the security of our nation. These may include the surveillance of criminal gangs with the object of dismantling them, the identification, gathering of evidence, and the presentation of the evidence which will result in the conviction of criminal actors.

The commissioner must also develop policies and procedures to deal with the burgeoning traffic fatalities on our streets that will necessitate special enforcement programmes that must include interception. He also has to convince government to provide the resources that are critically needed to enable officers to accomplish their mission.

Then there are the numerous meetings among members of the force and civil society which are directed not only at communicating his policies, strategies and plans, but also to win the confidence of stakeholders. This is why the commissioner needs to have at his disposal, at the portfolio level, a cadre of men and women who are competent in their respective fields. Critical to this management structure is the role of the area officer, whose main role is to translate and convey the commissioner's policies and administrative decisions to the divisional and branch commanders.

The British overseas officers contracted by the Jamaican Government at the turn of the millennium brought with them policies from the former colonial masters that could never be replicated in Jamaica, for no other reason than the absence of the financial resources to support the notion such as divisional primacy, which implies that the divisional commander must have greater autonomy over his division with little intervention from the High Command. They also recommended that area commanders that do not exist in their own forces overseas should be abolished.

Well, they have all but gone back to their homeland, leaving very little evidence of their contribution to the force, despite the large salaries and upscale accommodation that was part of their remuneration. Good riddance!

There was no bath-water with which to throw out these babies, at least one of whom has been busily engaged in cross-continent presentations criticising the JCF while failing to explain the role the British overseas officers played in advancing the Jamaica Constabulary.

Punctuality is important, as the commissioner must be briefed either through the area officers or his representative every morning before 8:30 a.m. and in emergencies such as serious accidents, fatal shootings, demonstrations, etc., he must be briefed in real time.


Give officers work


Commissioner Quallo cannot be expected to be on the street to fight crime. That is the responsibility of the policemen and policewomen on the front line, who must not only be properly accounted for, but properly supervised. The officers who have been placed in cosy offices with little or nothing to do and commonly referred to in the force as being under 'shade trees' must be given work to do. They must be sent out into the field. Too many officers have been promoted who have never had a bead of sweat down their brow while performing police duties. If Commissioner Quallo fails, it will be because of his failure to dislodge those square pegs from round holes.

Members of the force must realise that they do not own public offices. They are merely holders in transition until it is either time to move on or move out. Years ago, transfers were so fast and furious that one did not have time to unpack their certificates or place their names on their office doors. When that time comes, it is hoped that they will be able to point to their contribution to the force's advancement in general and to the security of the nation in particular.

Instead of condemning the commissioner publicly, we can talk to him by phone, emails and letters, giving him suggestions and ideas.

- Keith Gardner is an attorney-at-law and director of security at the UWI, Mona. He served the JCF for more than four decades.

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