Tue | Oct 23, 2018

JaRistotle’s Jottings | Minister Chang’s glorified security guards

Published:Thursday | October 11, 2018 | 12:00 AM
A police officer directs traffic at the intersection of Constant Spring and Mannings Hill roads on Monday morning.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has a vital role to play in protecting Jamaica and its citizens, of this there is no question. Over the course of the force's 150+ years of existence, its members have given exemplary service to the country; however, there have also been numerous cases of ignominious conduct on their part.

The JCF is often cursed, criticised and vilified by many, yet heavily patronised by the same naysayers when they find themselves in untenable circumstances. The force has also come in for disparaging remarks from our political leaders, the most recent being National Security Minister Horace Chang's characterisation as a 'glorified security guard system designed to protect the property of property owners'.

 

The truth hurts

 

Naturally, the Police Federation has taken issue with Minister Chang's comments, but the fact is that his characterisation has some merit. I guess the source of the criticism, a politician who has benefited from their protection of his political property over many decades, has a lot to do with the dent to their pride, but so what, the truth is the truth.

The JCF suffers from a plethora of deficiencies ranging from systemic corruption and political servitude to a seemingly apathetic attitude throughout its membership owing to consistent failure on the part of its leadership to tackle these issues from within. In other words, the ethos is akin to that of watchmen rather than proactive and forward-thinking police officers attuned to prevention and protection.

 

Common-sense policing

 

Since the start of the current school year and the plague of incessant traffic congestion due to the ongoing roadworks, I have noted an increased presence of the police on the roads, including at intersections. However, I have to question their effectiveness. Too often boorish drivers ignore red lights, recklessly endanger others, and block intersections, while the assigned officers merely look on as if powerless to take action against the offenders.

Just last week while traversing Liguanea Avenue I encountered a team of perhaps eight officers conducting spot checks near to the intersection with Hope Road. Well done, I thought, until I passed them and fell prey to the boors who were causing chaos at the intersection a few metres away from the police team who appeared oblivious to what was happening.

What is the point in painting grids within intersections, decreeing that vehicles should never be stationary within these grids, that drivers should not be obstructing the intersections and having the police on site, yet motorists are subjected to daily gridlock because of unbridled indiscipline?

Wherever deployed, the presence of the police should be felt and appreciated, and there is no better theatre for this than on our roads and public spaces.

The lack of proactive enforcement does not reside solely with static deployments; mobile teams are equally culpable. How often have we seen vehicles parked along major thoroughfares and broken-down vehicles being repaired in the middle of the road, causing considerable inconvenience and traffic jams while service vehicles drive merrily pass without the police batting an eyelid or attempting to address the situation? Well, I have, and only too often for that matter, giving me the impression that they don't care.

So back to Minister Chang's characterisation: glorified security guards. The police need to accept the reality, that a wide cross section of the society view their performance as less than satisfactory. My suggestion is to deal with the low-hanging fruit, addressing basic breaches that are major inconveniences for the public at large. Win over the public support in these areas and garner a support base that will augur well for tackling major crime.

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