Fri | Feb 23, 2018

Editorial: In state of anarchy | Police force can’t be transformed by insider

Published:Friday | February 9, 2018 | 12:00 AM

The fact that Richard Byles, who we proposed as the next police chief, may not take the job doesn't mean that the Government shouldn't be engaged in radical thinking about who should lead the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).

General Antony Anderson, Prime Minister Andrew Holness' national security adviser and the former chief of defence staff, who is likely to be in the running, wouldn't be a bad choice. But we would insist that any shortlist of potential candidates, even if neither they nor their boards have yet been approached, should include people like Jeffrey Hall, the CEO of Jamaica Producers Group; Patrick Hylton, managing director of National Commercial Bank; and William Mahfood, chairman of the Wisynco Group.

These are bright and driven persons who took over indifferently performing, or faltering, firms and transformed them into some of Jamaica's most iconic profitable companies. Along the way, they had to take tough and sometimes unpopular decisions. In most of these cases, and similar circumstances of corporate transformation, the incumbent boss had to make room for a new manager with transformational thinking. In other words, the manager under whose watch the crisis developed is very unlikely to be the one capable of fixing it.

Jamaica's police force, after the nine-month and eminently forgettable stint of George Quallo as its commissioner, remains at a similar crossroads. The consensus is universal, almost, that it is corrupt, inefficient and incompetent, and mostly uses paramilitary, jackbooted methods that are unsuited for a 21st-century environment. Moreover, the JCF is institutionally resistant to change.

A large part of the JCF's problem is that for most of the last half-century, its leadership cadre has risen through its ranks, having imbibed a culture that stresses loyalty to the squad, rather than higher institutional ideals. So, the leadership corps, even if not corrupt themselves, find it difficult, if not impossible, to extricate themselves from the 'squaddie' mentality to impose transformational discipline on the institution.

In that regard, Professor Anthony Harriott, chairman of the Police Civilian Oversight Authority, is right in asserting that the environment within the JCF is not conducive to discipline.

Put another way, the JCF is badly in need of a reset if it is to play a credible role of preventing and detecting crime in a country that last year recorded more than 1,600 murders; had a homicide rate of around 60 per 100,000; is on course for a 25 per cent increase in killings in 2018; and where six in 10 homicides don't make the JCF's low bar for being 'cleared up'.

 

FINDING THE BEST TALENT

 

This state of anarchy demands that Prime Minister Holness finds the best talent, with creative ideas and willing to be accountable, to take on the job of security.

He has an immediate opportunity with the JCF, whose next leader, for all the reasons we have outlined, and more, should not be recruited from within the ranks of the organisation. Neither does that leader have to have policing or security experience. He or she needs to be bright and have exemplary management and leadership skills, including the will to take tough actions, up to, if required, jettisoning the bulk of the JCF's officer corps. The commissioner can buttress his own management talent and creative thinking by hiring policing skills from outside the JCF.

At the ministerial level, Mr Holness must put his Government's best talent on the job. He now has to decide whether that is indeed Robert Montague, which, if it is, Mr Montague has to develop a new vernacular in which to speak to the community about the portfolio.

Additionally, Mr Holness has to make fighting crime and the creation of security his Government's top priority and articulate that to the society. Mr Holness would find that security is a driver of economic growth rather than what seems to be the fixation - that lower crime rates will inevitably be a by-product of higher growth.