Tue | Aug 21, 2018

Garth Rattray | Our 30th commissioner of police

Published:Monday | February 5, 2018 | 12:00 AM

The attrition rate among our top cops is astounding. For the sake of our country, I hope that the Police Service Commission will conduct an exit interview/debriefing to ascertain the reason for Commissioner Quallo's departure and deal with it decisively.

The next commissioner of police (com pol) will be under more scrutiny than any other in the history of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). He/she will be watched closely to see if he/she will be given the autonomy and executive cooperation that the job requires.

George Fitzroy Quallo was our 29th com pol. He is an honourable and proficient man with an exemplary record. His strong sense of duty is the only reason why he took the job. He had no sins of commission or omission. However, apparently, he found his working conditions suffocating and insufferable. Those who lambast him do so out of ignorance and mischief.

Like all predecessors, the 30th com pol will not be able to significantly reduce corruption within the JCF because the pool of police recruits is taken from a society steeped in corruption. Unlike the Jamaica Defence Force, the police remain exposed to its influence. Greenhorns are supposed to be strictly supervised and undergo periodic examinations during their first year, but the paucity of numbers sometimes pairs them with rogue cops who indoctrinate them into bad habits and illegal activities.

Many young constables witness bad police practices and are either afraid to become whistle-blowers or join the gang of corrupt cops who actively seek or accept bribes to ignore traffic offences and more serious crimes like drug and/or weapons smuggling, compromising court cases, taking protection money from small businesses, 'taxing' public transport vehicles, and God knows what else. The overarching excuses are that their salaries cannot sustain them or adequately compensate them for risking their lives.

 

Sting operations

 

In order to reduce or eradicate corruption within the JCF, the Government must carry out numerous sting operations, put in place a safe and dedicated path for the protection of whistle-blowers, legislate much harsher penalties, and facilitate the cooperation of the citizenry.

No com pol will be able to significantly reduce crime singlehandedly, because the JCF lacks resources and manpower. The last time that crime was noticeably reduced was in 2010, after the incursion into Tivoli Gardens, and a few years subsequent to that security operation. There was nationwide deployment of security personnel as prophylaxis against localised criminal uprisings. Crime is rampant because it is the product of a very sick society, wherein family nuclei are weak and the underprivileged have been ignored and disenfranchised.

We can't have a shoot-'em-up com pol; our society has evolved past crude measures that will cause the loss of innocent lives. And, there aren't enough police to supress crime until significant social reforms take place.

 

Inundate the streets

 

In order to stop opportunistic crime, the security forces will need to inundate the streets. This is where I continue to lobby for a hybrid security force, where some soldiers are sent to the Police Academy and graduate as police so that they can legally lead squads of soldiers on patrols without states of emergency or martial law. This would markedly increase the number of security personnel on the ground, suppress crime, and bring order and discipline back to our streets.

In order to reduce organised crime, the Government must use all its resources and not only depend on the JCF. It must infiltrate gangs with undercover agents, reduce the recruitment pool by getting occupation for our youth, improve social amenities in poor areas, closely monitor the development of our children, strengthen the witness protection programme, legislate for the effective use of electronic surveillance, and use the powerful revenue department as the USA did to snare Al Capone.

Additionally, our justice system needs much improvement. Lengthy waits on trials, poor working conditions and several other factors influence the dispensation of justice and, therefore, criminality.

Obviously, crime is so multifaceted that the constabulary and, therefore, the com pol is not our main source of deliverance. As long as the com pol is allowed to do his/her job, rally the troops, manage the day-to-day running of the JCF, institute operational strategies/reforms, and work side by side with the elected officials towards a common goal, he/she will be effective.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.