Mon | Dec 10, 2018

Mark Shields | Next police chief can't be a novice

Published:Sunday | March 4, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Mark Shields
Paul Scott
Danville Walker
Richard Byles
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Since George Quallo resigned as Jamaica's commissioner of police in January, there has been the familiar round of speculation by the media and various individuals on who should be Mr Quallo's successor.

Perhaps because of the frequency of appointments and resignations of the top cop and the staggering increase in murders, allegations of police corruption and operational blunders such as the Christmas Palisadoes road fiasco when thousands of people were left stranded on their way to and from Norman Manley International Airport, this conjecture becomes a speculative frenzy. We hear loud calls for the reinstatement of long-retired senior officers whose methods failed previously and are even more likely to crash and burn now.

Previously, we heard calls for several Jamaicans with no policing experience to be considered for the post of commissioner. These include Danville Walker, a former Jamaica Customs chief, and Greg Christie, a former contractor general, among others.

But in the last few weeks, I've noticed that the editorial board of this newspaper has really been stretching the speculation to ridiculous extremes. Three weeks ago, the editorial called for the well-respected businessman and former co-chair of EPOC, Richard Byles; to be commissioner. And, on February 18, 2018, in another article, the respected businessman and former president of the PSOJ, Paul B. Scott, was also propped up. The suggestion was made that he should put his business career on hold and "throw his hat in the ring" for commissioner of police.

Although I appreciate the reasons behind this state of frustration and desperation, it seems to have escaped the editorial board that neither Mr Byles nor Mr Scott has had any experience of either strategic or operational policing. I compare these ludicrous recommendations to suggesting that General Antony Anderson, the national security adviser and former JDF chief of defence staff, be considered for the post of governor of the Bank of Jamaica.

Implicit in The Gleaner's editorials is the warped perception that regardless of a lack of previous policing experience, literally anyone with leadership and management skills, notwithstanding a completely different professional background, can step into the post of commissioner and succeed. This perception is a fallacy because a commissioner must be able to immediately secure the respect of his men and women by demonstrating a broad understanding of policing at a strategic level.

It is already accepted that the JCF will resist outsiders, but an outsider with absolutely no experience is hardly a recipe for internal support and sustained crime reduction. How on earth could one of these captains of commerce and industry credibly question operational decisions and add value to a strategic policing plan or even provide credible advice on a day-to-day level when dealing with a critical incident of national importance?

Although the commissioner will be supported by in-house experts, he or she should have a basic understanding of the many laws that guide the actions of men and women in the force. A commissioner should have more than a cursory working knowledge of those laws so as to guide the JCF within a legal framework. The commissioner must be able to hit the ground running, and clearly, however talented a business leader may be, this would not end well.

It is evident that what the country needs right now is a highly experienced senior officer with a proven track record for managing a police service at a senior level, prepared to display visible leadership skills and make tough strategic decisions to shape the way forward for the JCF. It is my opinion that unless a person with a curriculum vitae that reflects those skills is found, regardless of success in other fields outside modern policing, any candidate will be unable to earn the trust and confidence of the JCF and the citizens of Jamaica.

If this person is identified and appointed, he or she can begin the process of finding serving JCF police officers with potential for high rank. As I proposed in my 10-point plan for the commissioner, published in this newspaper in January, send them to Canada, the United Kingdom, and United States to gain the strategic leadership skills that are urgently required to transform the JCF, as well as create a pool of potential commissioners of the future.

- Mark Shields is a security consultant and former deputy commissioner of police. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and mark@shieldscsc.com.