Tue | Nov 20, 2018

Editorial | What’s Anderson’s agenda for JCF?

Published:Monday | August 20, 2018 | 12:00 AM

We share Major General Antony Anderson's wish that policing becomes a career young Jamaicans, like some of the pre-high-school kids to whom he handed out bursaries last week, are excited about. Hopes and wishes, however, are not of themselves outcomes.

That this doesn't now happen, as General Anderson knows, is not only because the job is innately dangerous. The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has a reputational crisis. It is seen as corrupt.

The problem can't be fixed only by addressing the raft of other technical issues facing the police force. Indeed, any lasting transformation of the constabulary will demand extraordinary leadership from General Anderson, or whoever is at the helm of the force, buttressed by strong political support.

With regard to the latter, the statement by Horace Chang, the national security minister, about the Government's commitment to the reform of the constabulary, including its plan for a new police service law, is encouraging. Our confidence is further bolstered by Dr Chang's appreciation that technology isn't the sole requirement for modernising the JCF.

He said: "Reform will not only entail technological improvements or a simple name change, but establishing a robust accountability framework, enhanced capacity building, culture change, and improvements in standards of service delivery."

While we understand that policy is primarily the purview of the minister, we are concerned that in the six months since he has been commissioner, relatively little has been heard from General Anderson about his ideas on restructuring the constabulary. The circumstances demand his loud and robust articulation of his plans and intentions, to give the public a sense of whether he is the transformative leader the situation demands.

Jamaicans have known for decades that their police force is ill equipped, insufficiently trained, inefficient and often poorly led, and that large swathes of its membership are corrupt. The police, largely, have lost the trust of citizens. Repairing the JCF will demand a major overhaul of its leadership and the manner in which it is led, which, in some cases, may require removal of people not because of problems of integrity or character, but on questions of competence.

 

Periodic Attempts at Reform

 

There have, indeed, been periodic attempts at reform. Most of these efforts, however, have faltered against a culture of resistance and the protective instincts of a group that has evolved its own codes of existence. That resistance is even greater when the purveyor of change is from outside the squad, as is General Anderson, the former chief of defence staff and latterly Prime Minister Andrew Holness' national security adviser.

We know that he has the integrity for the job. We assume he has the full backing of Mr Holness and, therefore, political support to leverage. What Jamaicans don't know, beyond the snippets such as he offered last week, are General Anderson's deeper and broader vision for the constabulary, his strategies and tactics for reform, and whether he has the guts for the job.

Doing what is necessary will require the backing of the Jamaican people. But they have to know what he has in mind. People won't offer uncritical support or endorse a secret agenda. General Anderson has to take citizens, who the police commit to protect and serve, into his confidence.