Orville Taylor | De-commissioned
In a few days, the country will see the departure of the second Commissioner of Police in three years, and of course, there is rife speculation as to why. Dr Carl Williams, a man who rose through the ranks of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) to become Jamaica's top cop and without Lasco's endorsement, mounts his horse and gets ready to ride off into the sunset. Personally, I am sad to see him go, but a man has to do what he thinks is best for him, and only he can be the judge of that. His job, for all the prestige, is a thankless one, especially if all that the incumbent is interested in is good policing and not the other extraneous variables, which distract, detract or interfere in the normal performance of his duties.
Policing is both a complex and simple set of tasks. It involves administering the various statutes in force, while using the Constabulary Force Act as a general framework. After more than 34 years of wearing the big boots that Government issues to 'Corpie', Williams would be a buffoon if he did not know what policing is about.
The personal attacks against him were unnecessary, even as he was seen as possessing nominal qualifications, being the first person in the post with a doctorate.
Interestingly, the only people who thought that his PhD was an obstacle to his performance were doubtless the sour grapes eaters, who have never gone through the rigours of a doctoral programme. Either that or they are struggling with just plain bad mindedness.
Coming on the heels of Owen Ellington, who departed under a dark cloud, Williams was the silver lining. And believe it or not, he still is.
Never mind the poorly landed joke when he graded himself with an A for his performance. Humour is not a requirement for the job; neither is the ability to speak glibly, especially when the public and the little 'popo' in red seam know exactly what the truth is.
Consensus on integrity
Among the rank and file and the office corps, the consensus is that he is a man of integrity and very 'annis'. More than any other characteristic, the JCF needs a commissioner who has no dirt on him. A commissioner doesn't have to be a man or woman of the cloth, but in a society where the truth is a vanishing species like the Indian Coney, he or she has to command the respect of people from inside and outside of the JCF.
His friends list must not contain any skeletons in his closet, and he must be sober, in both the biblical way and in the way of Father Whites, Brother Stout and Cousin Gin. And he must not be 'licky-licky' in the sense that every little businessman or politician can press his button like a poker machine.
Simply put, one should not have anything over the commissioner. In fact, although I totally disagree with Reneto DeCordova Valentino Adams', labelling of Williams as a coward, the commissioner must be brave and able to call a spade a spade. Such testicular fortitude must mean that he can stand up to all dons, whether affiliated to political parties or not, defend the force's handling of human rights issues, and crush the criminal and delinquent elements in the organisation. A commissioner with the statutory power to arrest every Jamaican citizen except the Governor General must have the dimensions to use his cricket balls to play soccer.
In a divided Jamaica, where criminals have been cultured under the deliberate policies of commission and omission of Labourites and Comrades for more than four decades, he must be able to tell the fist pumpers to back off and the V-fingered green men to lower the index finger.
The Carl Williams whom I know has clear ideas on how he can do his job, and I would bet my income for the next five years that he is not leaving because he thinks that crime is 'spiralling out of control' It does not help that there has been an increase in homicide statistics, but I am totally embarrassed when graduates from my beloved University of the West Indies use such expressions and seem to have a vested interest in demoralising the hard-working popo and empowering and emboldening the very same criminals, of whom they are afraid.
Tenure of paradox
Indeed, during Williams' tenure, we had the paradoxical situation of major crimes trending down, but murders trending upwards.
For example, comparing 2015 and last week, the homicide figure was comparably, 1,192 and is now more than 1,387. Yet as in last year, more than 50 per cent of murders were cleared up, and I am using a better benchmark than the USA uses to measure clear-up rate. If we use a different statistical tool, the number is way over 60 per cent. Most murderers are getting caught, and the clear- up rate is higher than under any commissioner in our modern history since proper statistics have been tabulated decades ago. So, ironically, inasmuch as more 'gangsters are killing more of their fellow gangsters, a greater percentage of them is being found and arrested.
Believe it or not, a smaller number of Jamaicans are being affected directly by crime. Most of the victims and perpetrators are known to each other, and that includes shootings and the alarming cases of domestic or spousal homicides. Oh, by the way, aggravated assaults, including domestic violence, decreased from 595 to 440. People are also less thieving.
Burglaries dropped from 1,785 to 1,251 and simple larceny from 335 to 185. Importantly, robberies fell from 1,890 to 1,387, a massive decline of 27 per cent. This last statistic is a significant one, because oftentimes they are committed using deadly weapons, including the gun. Taken as a whole, serious crimes, despite the inflated murder rate, plummeted from 7,465 in 2015 to 6,244 in 2016.
And as for the crime hot spots and demographics?
Ask the politicians who have been in politics more than 20 years. They know the root cause.
Walk good, Commish. At 6'6", I don't have to say walk tall. And to the powers that be, choose wisely because the JCF will outlast all of us, but a wrong choice will plague us and generations to come.
- Dr Orville Taylor, senior lecturer in sociology at the UWI and a radio talk-show host, is the author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.