Sat | Oct 20, 2018

Editorial: In a State of Anarchy | Make outsider new police chief

Published:Monday | January 29, 2018 | 12:00 AM

George Quallo is a fine chap who, apparently, had an unimpeachable reputation in the police force. He was affable and, perhaps, got along with most of the boys, if not everyone.

But the shoes of the police commissioner were too large for his little feet. Mr Quallo, who had not applied for the job of commissioner in the first round but was parachuted in, quits the leadership of the police force with Jamaica at an existential crossroads.

With 2017 being the third-bloodiest year in post-Independence history, with 1,616 murders; lukewarm ZOSOs and an ongoing state of emergency in St James; and a new year traffic fiasco on the Palisadoes Road, Mr Quallo came to the end of his tether.

His honest-to-goodness notwithstanding, Mr Quallo did not exhibit the force, of character and personality needed to impose his stamp on the notoriously corrupt police force, and didn't inspire confidence that he had the vision to overhaul its structural weaknesses.

His imminent departure tells of the leadership deficit that has dogged the constabulary for more than a decade. Whoever replaces Mr Quallo will be the seventh person to lead the police force in 13 years. That attrition rate accounts for part of the cancer eating away at the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and amplifies the need for a radical overhaul of its structure and culture.

The Police Service Commission, which selects appointees to the position, must also reflect keenly on its role in the tragicomedy of musical chairs. The commissionership has become nothing more than a human-resource fast track to a good pension - if you can stomach it for a year or two.

Jamaica's police force, which is hobbled by low public confidence in both its integrity and capacity, must make a quantum leap to escape its caricature of corruption and ineptitude.

Even with the resource woes that have bedevilled the Force, it suffers primarily from a lack of competent management and accountability, preferring instead to operate, mostly, as a band of back-scratching, mercenary 'squaddies'.

 

COMmANDING PUBLIC TRUST

 

At this juncture, with Jamaica's homicide rate at anarchic proportions, no one from the inner sanctum of the Force can command public trust that he, or she, has the capability, and will, to salvage the constabulary. The deputy ranks are as badly damaged and as culpable for the malfunction of the Force.

The new police chief should emerge from outside the Force and be given a free hand to reshape the JCF. He or she may not even have core national security chops per se but possesses the management acumen and cojones to reroute a derailed and demotivated bunch.

The new police chief should also be free of excess baggage and granted space to pick his, or her, own support corps. Perhaps consideration will have to be given to retiring the entire deputy commissioner cohort in the public interest - not because of the taint of corruption, but to give the Force a fresh start.