Devon Dick | Choosing the next commissioner
What is wrong with the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) was demonstrated at the Crime Forum reported in last Sunday's Gleaner. At the forum, citizens claimed that houses are operating as gun shops, with firearms and ammunition being sold from the trunks of cars in the Savanna-la-Mar bus park. Boats are also taking guns into the parish, docking near Wharf Road in Smithfield monthly.
One of the responses from the head of the Westmoreland police was that he had information about thriving gun businesses operating in the parish but no specific locations. Wow! The next thing that will be required of citizens is to provide specific names.
In 2014, there was outcry in the parish because of 51 killings, but last year, homicides rose to 148, almost a 200 per cent increase in three years, and we are arguing over specific locations.
The truth is that the new head in Westmoreland should have been briefed properly and thoroughly by the one he succeeded. This seems to be the major problem with the police force: There is no strategic operational plan for the parishes and country. It would be better if the People's National Party were to call on the police, rather than the Government, to state what is the crime plan.
Therefore, the Police Service Commission (PSC), in interviewing candidates for the job, should have one main question: What is a plan? The Police High Command, having done the appropriate research and proper analysis, should state what is the plan. Is it cordons and searches, curfews, border patrols, temporary security posts, beefed-up witness protection, etc.? What are the assumptions, the goals, and the expected outcomes from a particular path?
Politicians or pastors should not be making requests for police cars to be assigned to a parish. That is the responsibility of divisional police heads. Leave operational matters to the police.
One must assume that the PSC did not accept acting Commissioner Novelette Grant because her plan was weak and that George Quallo was the man with the plan and showed that he had the necessary leadership to motivate others to implement, the government to provide the resources, and his team to manage and monitor the process. Quallo did not apply for the job initially, so he must have been far better than the others. So who to turn to?
The important thing is not a foreigner or outsider, but someone who has a strategic operational plan and the ability to see to its implementation. Nothing more, nothing less.
What then is the responsibility of the Government? It has to do with policy - such as whether there should be a merger between the police and army; whether MOCA should be separated from the Jamaica Constabulary Force; and whether the JCF should be rebranded as a peace-keeping force. The responsibility of the Government is to provide legislative support.
Finally, the Government should provide adequate resources for the plan to be implemented. Therefore, it is a shame that we are still 1,000 members short in the JCF, some 600-700 cars short. In addition, there is a lack of CCTV, no integration between the JCF and private owners of CCTV, and an insufficient number of X-ray machines to inspect containers for guns, better working conditions, etc.
This is where the Government must be blamed for not diverting funds to cauterise the killings. This monster of a crime rate is eating away at four per cent of GDP, so it makes sense to invest two per cent of GDP and in the long run save lives and money.
Until the police plan and the Government deal with policies, to quote former crime-fighter Reneto Adams while in Tivoli, said, "The country will pay dearly for this."
- The Rev Dr Devon Dick is an author and pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.