Sat | Oct 20, 2018

Mark Wignall | Bloody hell for new police chief

Published:Sunday | February 25, 2018 | 12:00 AM

For all of 2017, we lived with the reality of murders piled atop of murders. But if we thought that was bad, in 2018, we are already 17 per cent above where we were the same time in 2017.

Is the nation yet at that critical-mass number where enough of the law-abiding are fed up, fearful and angry to the extent that we would be prepared to tell what we know at community level and send a loud and clear message to criminals that, overwhelmingly, we the people stand firmly with law and order?

The fear and the anger are there, I know, but I am not so certain about that last step to give community assistance its best definition in working with the police. Most people in this country who occupy positions of authority are in favour of more 'active' policing. Most people at street level support that same type of policing.

The big problem, of course, is that people have not yet threaded that fine line between the police fighting fire with fire, and the release of a few fearless death squads of men who are prepared to move in with proactive intentions and move out with filled body bags.

Many individuals are not disposed to intellectual talk about the redeemable nature of the young gunman murderer. We prefer to leave that to philosophical musings and notes in a psychology journal.

"Dem yout understand only two ting. Fast life, floss and dead quick. If dem a go tek it to people so, di police need fi tek dem out. Fire wid fire, brimstone pon top a hell," said one of my streetside vending acquaintances. "Me is 63, and is di worse mi si it. Is not political war, is not one big gang fighting gainst di next one. It just buss out all over and it have to stop."

This is the general landscape that the next commissioner of police will be wading into and hoping to walk through and survive with his sanity intact.

He will have to present to the PSC panel a raft of workable plans tied in with what the Government has been at pains to publicise - its new-found resources and its attempts at fast-tracking technology in crime-fighting and solving cases. I believe the national security minister has been deliberately doing that so that a new commissioner cannot use as an excuse (12 months down the road when he is leaving) that he was unaware of the resource constraints.

That main part of the raft of plans must show where cutting murders by, say, 20 per cent in 12 months, is not only workable and realisable but sustainable. It must also cover the hasty retirement of a sizeable percentage of the officer ranks who are known by those at that rarefied top as rotten and bruised as apples in the rejection line.

 

NO IDLE COPS

 

In recent weeks, the director of public prosecutions (DPP) and the political ombudsman have come out in support of the JCF, quite possibly because both offices need to maintain the strength of their strategic alliances with the police if the DPP and the ombudsman's office are to enjoy successes.

This, of course, was in response to Professor Anthony Harriott's description of the police and its culture as "toxic". The professor was spot on, and I am certain that the members of the PSC must know this, too. In addition to that, the force has made itself top-heavy until the khaki-suit brigade has become its own encumbrance, placing too many bosses behind desks.

One main plank in ending that toxic culture is in retiring those who are its main vectors. The supe who regularly collects from the extortionists and the scammers. The 'spec' who is handed a package each month by assorted businessmen for 'services rendered'.

The bigger reasoning behind that is that a corrupt JCF, or one that has too many elements of its toxic culture clogging up its vitals, cannot make any pretence that it is equipped to fight crime and the underlying corruptible links keeping it together in this country.

The resume that is likely to take the next commissioner into 'viable' territory when facing the PSC will be a significant cut in the murder rate in the next year, culling the force of the corrupt elements at the top and making more efficient use of the presence of cops in the nation's urban centres and small towns.

At the same time, the Government recognises that governance is the farthest thing from a binary system. All things must operate all at the same time, some things better than others. Wages are one of those perennial sticking points on which neither side seems to be ever focused on one agreeable spot.

Were I such an individual with plans that are workable and saleable, I would ask the taxpayers of this country to pay me $20 million per annum. I would also add a rider that if my plans to cut murders by 20 per cent fail, whatever the amount below 20 per cent that I have failed, that should be deducted from my salary in the next year. If I live up to the 20 per cent deduction and in the second year score another deduction, that number should be a sufficient top-up of my package.

 

FIXING JUSTICE

 

We have been told that there are about a whopping 400,000 cases backed up in the justice system in this country.

I have suggested that a team from the law schools work along with the justice ministry to develop a profile of these cases. I am certain that many of the protagonists have died of old age or other causes.

Maybe a few of the lawyers have been disbarred and the original judges long retired. "It is my understanding that the security minister has raised this issue with Delroy Chuck," said a JLP insider with knowledge of these things.

'The idea is to give a few retired judges a few months to pore over these cases and, just as you say, develop a profile of them. Of course, it is quite likely that many of them would be automatically scratched or, if they are pending longer than 10 years, force them to be completed in six months. After that and there is no completion, it is taken off the books.

"I don't know the legal ramifications, but if the justice ministry does this, it will not only help itself, but it will give the country a truer picture of the state of justice in Jamaica."

The new commissioner of police needs a viable justice system that will allow cases/convictions to be disposed of in 12 months. If the new commissioner starts off with a bang and, say, 15 of the most notorious violent gang leaders are arrested and the cases were expertly investigated and solidly built; if the justice system remains in its present state of torpor, the commissioner will become most frustrated.

Already it appears that the criminal is winning big time. There are two ZOSOs and a parish state of emergency, and even with that, murders are up 17 per cent. We know that at this time, unusual focus is going be brought on the PSC and the person handed to us courtesy of that august body and named commissioner.

He or she cannot be a 'dibby-dibby' who can BS one's way with words but have little workable plans.

In more ways than one, we are creating a commissioner that cannot realistically exist.

He will have to talk less and do more, solve crimes and, like superman, prevent them.

Whew!

- Mark Wignall is a political- and public-affairs commentator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and observemark@gmail.com.