Fri | Jan 19, 2018

Mark Wignall | Will a lady commish make a big difference?

Published:Sunday | February 26, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Acting Commissioner Novelette Grant.
Acting Commissioner of Police Novelette Grant has an uphill task in reining in Jamaica's murder wave.

"May as well dem give har it," said Fedo to me. We are at a spot way north of Papine and the discussion was mostly about crime, the police, and the way forward for the leadership of the JCF.

"Why do you believe it is the best thing for Jamaica to have her as commissioner of police?" I asked him of Novelette Grant, the person occupying the commissioner of police's office until an official announcement is made.

He responded in unambiguous terms. "We reach di bottom of the barrel. When you reach dere so, is only a woman can save yuh."

It seems to be the consensus among many of those in the know in Jamaica that the acting commissioner of police will get the final nod as our next JCF commissioner.

It has always been my belief that women are better at life skills than men - those simple things like listening through the noise, forcing oneself to live even perversely and figuratively on the other side of the guy shouting at you, and being prepared to admit one's own faults.

Minister of National Security Bobby Montague is at heart a nationalist. With Jamaica in its post-Independence existence still trying to figure out who we are, what we stand for, and where we want to go as a people, Montague is firmly in the camp of those who believe that the wizards who will eventually solve the great Jamaican problem are Jamaicans.

The last commissioner of police had a PhD. A senior policeman who spoke to me two months ago said, "... He lived his life in the JCF library while he should have been out involving himself in operational appreciation. You guys thought he was the great find. Now you can all go and try to figure out how you all got it wrong. Just like the elections."

Jamaica missed its best window of opportunity for growth and development during the run of the PNP's P.J. Patterson as prime minister. The regional and global economy grew during the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, but the PNP administration of that time went far south of the global realities.

In 2017, where we have no global and regional partners to drag us along, violent crime is increasingly the number one priority in many business decisions. We have built the highways and are still increasing the mileage of the buildout. Where is the better economy and society that were supposed to accrue from all that?


Why Novelette Grant?


It is entirely unsurprising that the senior members of the JCF and those on beat duty with whom I spoke and who had strong views as to where the leadership of the JCF should go did not want their names in this column.

An SSP with umpteen years' experience and now retired said to me last Monday: "I am seeing Jamaica now much better than when I was just a little 20-year-old corporal. Nothing dramatic is going to happen in any one political period. I believe that Ms Grant will get the big spot, but don't hope for the miraculous during her stint."

One other policeman, who worked with her directly for just a few years, said, "From what I saw of her, she keeps in touch with her staff. She ... makes herself open even to the lowest of ranks. She pays attention to details and even to the mundane.

"This makes her very aware of the issues that affect her staff. She is currently motivating her staff through daily emails ... and offers commendation. She also speaks about the public's perception and addresses behavioural issues that are displayed in the public domain. She basically leaves no stone unturned."

"Man, you make her sound like the great saviour. Is she that magical touch that the JCF needs?" I asked.

Someone else in our closed-shop gathering chimed in. "Grant is not going to be the second coming of Christ, but from my experience of her, this has never been seen in the JCF. Her predecessors were unreachable and aloof and flanked directly by the officer corps.

"She has so far displayed that she takes the rank and file to heart, and this is most evident with her association and work relations with the Community and Safety Branch. She has facilitated and spearheaded many training and course-development programmes, which shows her interest in staff development.

"I happen to know of more than a handful of young and bright policemen that have been lifted by her encouragement and action."




It is always difficult, if not impossible, to get any member of the JCF to go on record in quoting a negative about a powerful member of the force. It's totally understandable.

A 19-year-old veteran who is about halfway in and halfway out of the JCF said of Ms Grant: "I don't want to come across as bitter, but you ask me a direct question. She has many strengths, but [I have observed] weaknesses. She is not polished at all. Even with her credentials and obvious achievement, she is just not refined and dignified as the office requires."

I intervened. "Not polished! That sounds kind of pre-1950s. Explain, please."

"She is a contradiction. She wants the senior people in the JCF to get their academic qualifications, but at the same time, it seems that she doesn't want to be openly challenged by those who have those qualifications."

"That is not entirely puzzling to me to understand about human nature," I said, "but why do you believe she has this side to her?"

"It's an irony. The fact is, she does encourage persons to pursue academics, but she is a bit egoistical and must be the standout and must be the repository or the brightest person where knowledge is concerned."

Another person in our small group said, "Whatever she sey, a suh it guh. She has the colonial style to an extent and can be very harsh ... . Persons try to be extremely careful around her and are afraid she might bash them publicly. Boy, I don't know. Maybe we just have to try her and keep our fingers crossed."


Fetch, Trump, fetch!


During the 2008 US presidential race, the astute political commentator Fareed Zakaria said of Sarah Palin, the GOP pick for VP as she made herself a national embarrassment on the airwaves, "It is not that she does not know the answers; she doesn't understand the questions."

President Donald Trump may not necessarily be the second coming of the category five moron, Sarah Palin, but, in our observation of his first month, we are forced to conclude that he cares little about the questions and the answers.

Trying to enter his brain is impossible. Whatever his past pains, and it seems there were many, he is here now with power to inflict pain on as many as those who believed he would not amount to much when he was 12 years old.

America has now become the land of fear for many of its residents, a state that many believed was simply impossible even to imagine. The unforced errors of the president have so far indicated a stunning lack of empathy that has never been seen among presidents in the modern era.

Jamaicans have a saying for it. They will tell you that someone must have done him some wrong some time way back. "A so him set. Him a carry tings wid him. Him weight heavy."

- Mark Wignall is a public affairs and political analyst. Email feedback to and