Mark Wignall | Pandering to the police, PM?
Their numbers hover between 11,000 and 12,000; they all have guns and power, plus the might of the State supporting them. Each year, the number of Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) members so unmotivated that they leave stands almost on equal footing with the training intake.
Most importantly to Prime Minister (PM) Holness, the JCF works for an entity called government and he, Holness is head of that entity. I therefore get it that at times, especially in the carnival-like atmosphere of a party conference, full reasoning from the political podium may not be at its best expression.
Throw in the suspicion that a majority of the JCF may have People's National Party (PNP) sympathies and, of course, Mr. Holness may feel that petting, powdering and placing a soft pillow at nights under the head of every member of the JCF is the preferred political approach.
Speaking at last Sunday's Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) annual conference, Mr. Holness could also have been forgiven if he were feeling somewhat embattled by the total confoundment that has long descended on his policymakers drafting crime-fighting plans against violent criminality. But sensible people never expected him to throw tar and feather at INDECOM, the police oversight body on police excesses.
According to the PM, " ... sometimes INDECOM goes too far, and places our police officers on the retreat."
Is this just a cheap and raw political appeal to members of the JCF or is it added licence to those mostly tempted to be less judicious in dealing with members of the public?
Maybe the prime minister was being smarter, politically so, than many of us give him credit for. It is quite likely that the PM was responding to growing public sentiment that the members of the JCF must demonstrate superior violence than that of the gun-toting murderers among us. In the bigger picture INDECOM is a low-hanging fruit and Holness may earn more than a few plaudits from some members of the JCF.
INDECOM Commissioner, Terence Williams, threw cold water on the PM's criticism by saying " ... in the first quarter of this year the recommendations for the 234 of the 249 cases that were completed was that no criminal charges and no disciplinary action should be brought against the officers involved ... charges were only recommended in four cases and disciplinary action in eight."
It was also pointed out by INDECOM that in the second quarter of 2017, of the 241 cases completed, only in six of those cases were charges recommended, while 222 were dismissed with no criminal charge or no disciplinary action.
"In the third quarter, 207 cases were completed, of that total, charges were recommended for two cases; disciplinary action in 12 cases and in 193 of these cases, no criminal charges and no disciplinary action were recommended."
Many citizens of this country are just as adrift as the government and the police seem to be unknowing how to bring down the murder rate to 'tolerable limits'. Even as heavily armed as members of the JCF usually are, we know that many police personnel live their lives in daily fear of their deaths.
We the citizens feel the fear too, but it is to our government that we look to in the search for solutions. I cannot quite fathom how the prime minister picking on INDECOM can attain anything other a political feel-good moment for him.
Think of it. What the prime minister is alluding to is a group of policemen on patrol and, acting on solid info, enter a premises and is challenged by, say, two men with automatic weapons drawn. To follow Mr. Holness' logic the police may either turn around and pretend that they saw nothing or, maybe, fire a few shots in the air, in the hope that the gunmen run off without firing back at the police.
And the police will take this action because of the big, bad bogeyman, INDECOM. The numbers simply do not support Mr. Holness' moment of political flourish.
The government is in problematic wage talks with many sectors of the civil service, including the police. Historically, the JLP administration has never been big on negotiating good deals with teachers, nurses, police, etc. It may suit the PM to attack INDECOM again. In continuance of the political theatre.