Keith Gardner | Recruit police chief from outside force
So, Commissioner Quallo has finally taken the decision to parachute from a force that is on a downward spiral. His tenure as commissioner will only be recorded by his picture among scores of other past leaders on the wall in the conference room of the commissioner's office.
History will not be as kind. He has done nothing to lift the force from the abyss of distrust, corruption and unaccountability. Perhaps he was not given enough time or resources to accomplish his plans and priorities which are yet to be declared.
He leaves at a time that is arguably one of the most critical in contemporary Jamaica. In addition, the Government has expanded its crime-suppressing operation in several parishes in Middlesex. Cliquism, patronage, clientelism and nepotism continue to dog the Force.
The attempt by Commissioner Quallo to correct the fractures within the organisation has been futile. His failure lies in his inability or unwillingness to hold people accountable for their dereliction of duty.
The Palisadoes road airport fiasco, the inappropriate disclosure of sensitive security information by officers of varying ranks, and the discharge of firearms at the recent funeral of a notorious area don collectively demonstrate failure in the Force. The incidents compromise not only the integrity of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), but also embarrassed the Government. There is no question that we need divine intervention in our fight against crime, but these are different times requiring a different approach.
The Force is in a quandary. Within a year, we would have had three commissioners. It is no secret that at least two senior officers within the force have been on the hustings, making frequent visits to highly placed members of the ruling party trying to convince players that they still are loyal supporters, with a view to being elevated to the rank of commissioner. The appointment of either of these officers will mark the continuation of a stagnant police force.
I hope the prime minister takes note that civil society is watching the situation carefully. While I was an outspoken supporter of Mr Quallo for the post of commissioner based on his strength of character, honesty and Christian virtue, recent developments in the last few months have led me to the conclusion that he was not up to the task.
A corollary to this is the fallacy of divisional primacy. This model of policing - a holdover from the British - supports the notion that divisional commanders must be given full autonomy for their regions. Jamaica must jettison this model, as many of our officers have not demonstrated that they do not have the capacity to address the crime situation without guidance and support, along with strong supervision.
What is needed at this time is someone from outside of the Force with integrity, conviction, determination and a commitment to rid the JCF of corrupt elements, and to ensure that those charged with responsibility carry out their mission or leave.
Jamaica does not need the unenviable title of being the murder capital of the world. Our search for a solution resulted in a flirtation with the British overseas police officers, which was disastrous. All we were left with after several years and millions of dollars poorer was brutem fulfilmen - 'empty thunder'. Can we now look to North America - perhaps the Federal Bureau of Investigation - or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as well as suitably qualified persons from the Jamaican diaspora for a new commissioner? It's time for a change agent within the JCF.
- Keith Gardner is a 40-year veteran of the JCF, leaving at the rank of assistant commissioner of police. He is an attorney-at-law and the director of security at UWI, Mona. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org