Mon | Dec 18, 2017

Garth Rattray | Hybridise the police force

Published:Monday | November 27, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Even if we take serious steps towards solving the root causes of crime today, it will require many years before our efforts become transformative. The criminal aspect of our culture has deep roots, and several generations of many underprivileged communities have evolved their unique coping techniques that run counter to the judiciary norms that guide our society.

We have a defence force. However, no country will ever attempt to attack or invade us, because we have strong links to several powerful developed countries that will come to our defence if needs be. Nevertheless, our Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) remains very well trained and is feared by criminal elements.

The complement of the police force is far below what is needed to effectively control the rampant crime that exists across the island. The police are not ubiquitous and the dark forces take every advantage of that as often as possible. The criminals simply wait for a convenient opening to unleash murder and mayhem when they want, where they want, how they want, as often as they want and on whomever they want. It feels as if we, the citizens, are living at the mercy of vicious criminals and killers. We are like hapless fish in a barrel.

 

Attacking crime

 

The minister of national security has been making strides in increasing the number of our police officers, and the commissioner of police is working assiduously to use what he has available to fight crime. Additionally, there are plans for fighting crime by attacking the root causes, but all this will take time, time that some of us simply don't have.

To my understanding, unless there is a declaration of martial law or a state of emergency, no soldier or group of soldiers can patrol civilian jurisdictions, stop, search, detain, interrogate or arrest citizens unless there is a member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) present. Consequently, we have several JDF regiments that cannot participate in crime fighting unless they are part of joint patrols. It all seems like a waste of valuable resources to me.

 

Save us money

 

Perhaps our parliamentarians, lawmakers and the powers that be could consider enacting legislation to allow for the training of some JDF non-commissioned officers (NCOs) to become full-fledged police officers. Those selected would be chosen from JDF corporals and sergeants and therefore be capable of leading squads/detachments. The JDF-JCF hybrid security officer would enlist in the full JCF training programme and graduate with the similar rank (of sergeant or corporal). That rank would be static in the JCF and if the JDF-JCF hybrid security officer were promoted by the JDF, he/she would be required to resign from the JCF in order to move on. The JDF-JCF hybrid security officer would save us money and improve our security by taking JDF members on patrol in order to complement the regular JCF.

We could train as many NCOs as feasible to function as police officers to allow for more needed patrols across the island. While on patrol/police duty, they would fall under the directive of the police command structure. The brazen slaughter of our fellow citizens is testament to the need for the security forces to literally infiltrate and saturate many communities. They need to have a high-profile presence to supress the activities of criminals.

Nefarious reprobates have long ago thrown away any rulebook for moral behaviour. If we continue thinking inside the confines of the proverbial box, we will never prevail. We must think outside the box and reinvent our strategies. Immediately after the Tivoli incursion of May 24, 2010, our streets were the safest they had been in many years. Joint police-military patrols were everywhere. The criminal elements cowered and slithered into their dark recesses, trembling in fear of the strong arm of the law. Slowly, as the high-security presence receded, the deadly guns recommenced their barking and the bloodletting resumed.

Some may worry about the militarised appearance and the effect on tourism. However, when I visited Cuba some years ago, I felt no fear from seeing many military personnel. In fact, it conveyed a feeling of safety and order. I hope that the Government will seriously consider the idea of the JDF-JCF hybrid security officers.

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