Mon | Aug 20, 2018

Patria-Kaye Aarons | Police need military management

Published:Tuesday | December 19, 2017 | 12:00 AM

If you ever met Captain Horace Burrell, there is one thing that would hit you immediately about him: he was in charge. Not only was he in charge, but he took charge. There was an activism in his authority. He did things his way with surefooted conviction.

It always amazed me to watch him work. To see him, on the spot, take a decision and just go with it, and get everyone falling in line and following behind him.

Even when people didn't believe in the Reggae Boyz, they believed in Captain and in whatever he told them. And he did it all with a cool head and impeccably dressed.

I credit a lot of that to Captain's military background. There's something special happening at the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) that I want to take a moment to acknowledge and celebrate. As much as both the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the JDF are security forces, the men and women they each produce are chalk and cheese when you compare them.

The reaction of persons on both the right and wrong side of the law says a lot about the JDF. The zones of special operations brought it into strong focus for me. Residents of the participating communities, when interviewed, were happy to see the JDF, more so than the JCF. It's not uncommon to hear people islandwide talk about feeling safe when soldiers are around and praising their ability to bring order to chaotic situations.

And yet at the same time, criminals fear those same soldiers - more than police. There's a zero tolerance, no-nonsense, "you can't bribe me" stance that soldiers take to their crime fight that citizens love and of which criminals are terrified.

For whatever reason, people would sooner trust a soldier than they would a cop, even though soldiers are trained to fight. To protect themselves first by any means necessary. And yet, they command so much respect from the most vulnerable in society. That duality is fascinating.

My interactions with a specific few army wives have made me respect another side of the JDF soldier. There was a time I desperately wanted to be an army wife myself. To have big, loud, hungry uniformed men in my backyard laughing and watching sports and trading stories and waiting for my home-made dinner. The fantasy in my head was grounded in the fact that soldiers looked out for other soldiers and their families. I would never feel unsafe and I would never be alone. I wanted that.

But I digress. The point is, it has been my experience that army wives know just how much the JDF has shaped the men in their lives for the better. Infidelity is frowned upon - certainly for senior officers - and the picture of the tough-exterior family man in uniform just warms my heart. The JDF encourages family, and any institution that can pay attention to the development of the whole man gets applause from me.




Then there's the chivalry. A chivalry I was very surprised to experience first-hand. I remember my earliest visit to the Officers' Mess at Port Royal. I had gone there for a family function, and as I approached, every officer stood to his feet. My face flushed hot when I discovered that it was my very presence that made them get up. I watched the men rise at the approach of every single woman that evening, and I respected them for that. The army taught them that. Not just how to be men, but how to be gentlemen.

There are clearly also some filtering mechanisms employed by the JDF that help them sift out not only those who aren't made of stern stuff, but also those who set out to use army training for negative ulterior motives. It also appears that those undesirables that do infiltrate at recruitment are changed - for the better.

Whatever training they go though shakes them straight. Soldiers are disciplined, respect the chain of command, and grow. There isn't a single soldier I know that hasn't grown because of their JDF experience.

And they each have a little Captain Burrell-ness in them. They stand ready to take charge whenever the need arises. There's something that the JDF does right that the JCF could and should learn from. I can't with 100 per cent certainty say that there is no corruption in the JDF. But you don't hear about it. If it does exist, that's Jamaica's best-kept secret.

The future of the JCF needs real evaluation. We are all agreed that you can't fix crime with a broken police force. Something drastic has to change. The perpetual reports of systemic corruption and poor leadership in the JCF have to change. Perhaps new JCF recruits should spend some time doing JDF training. Perhaps existing JCF top brass need a good ol' JDF shake-up.

Whatever is happening at Up Park Camp needs to be celebrated and much of it replicated in the JCF. It's the kind of training that produced more than a few good men. And Jamaica needs more of those.