Mon | Apr 23, 2018

Editorial | General Anderson’s mandate

Published:Thursday | March 8, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Hardley Lewin, the previous army man to head the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), is right about one of the ingredients that will potentially make Antony Anderson a success in the job. General Anderson, he says, is coming to the job with strong political support, which we believe to be true.

One implication of Rear Admiral Lewin's observation, including his remark that he wasn't defeated "by persons within the force", is that he didn't have strong backing of the political directorate during his stint as the commissioner of police between 2007 and 2009. Our assumption is that he was appointed because of the pressures on the government of the day from external donors who, at the time, had little confidence in, and frowned on the possibility of most, if not any, of the constabulary's members ascending to the top. In the end, Rear Admiral Lewin's tenure lasted just shy of two years, and he left with little of the expected overhaul of the constabulary and, judging from his public statements about the Government's handling of the Christopher Coke/Tivoli Gardens extradition affair, with a deep distrust for the political administration of the day.

Eight years and three police chiefs later - all appointed from within the force - the JCF is faced with largely the same problems that Jamaicans hoped Admiral Lewin would have fixed. It is inefficient and large swathes of its membership are corrupt and callused against change. Institutionally, it circles the wagons against external interventions, perpetuating a culture that makes it largely impervious to reforms from within.

It is this institution that General Anderson has been given the mandate to lead at, as the Police Service Commission euphemistically put it, "an important point of transformation". More correctly, we believe, General Anderson has to be the transformation, a difficult role of itself, but exacerbated by Jamaica's crime problem, including over 1,600 homicides last year, a murder rate of around 60 per 100,000, and a situation in which 60 per cent of those murders remain unsolved.

 

Well prepared

 

General Anderson, on the face of it, comes to the job well prepared. He has top-quality education from several of the world's leading military and civilian academies, as well as having served for six years as chief of defence staff and head of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).

In the context of this assignment, however, perhaps his most recent job, as the national security adviser to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, is perhaps, as Admiral Lewin suggests, the most critical. The assumption is that he has political trust. "What is required, more than anything else (to reform the JCF)," Admiral Lewin said, "is continuous and strong political support".

But that support, while absolutely critical, is not of itself sufficient. General Anderson and the Government must know what they want to make of the JCF, and in the context of fashioning an institution capable of a short-term containment of violent crime and of being a credible and effective civilian policing agency over the long term. In other words, General Anderson's ascendancy should have been a part of a broader crime strategy.

Those conversations should have already taken place between General Anderson and his political principals. If they hadn't before he accepted the job, and he comes to the job with neither clear plans nor having extracted bankable support for his ideas, General Anderson is likely to already be on a path of failure.

In that regard, we look forward to General Anderson's articulation of his ideas, hoping that they are transformational, and that he brings with him the will we believe he has to radically overhaul the JCF and to tackle crime at all tiers of the society.