Mon | May 25, 2020

Mark Wignall | Is the commissioner already here?

Published:Thursday | March 1, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Will Clifford Blake, the acting police commissioner, impress the Police Service Commission enough to land the job permanently?
Minister of National Security Robert Montague (left) and acting Commissioner of Police Clifford Blake are deep in conversation at Harman Barracks in Kingston on February 22. They were there to participate in the handover of renovated barracks for members of the police force.

The middle class has an item in its hand to chew over and wonder why those others at the bottom of society are not worrying about the same things that they are troubled by.

"So, what yu tink bout dis Justice Sykes ting?" said Aurora to Sandrea her domestic helper of 15 years.

"Sykes, Miss? A who dat? Oh, yu mean di judge ting. Well, I have been thinking dat if dem can stop di racket in the court system, then dat can help, but right now, is only God can help wi."

I was seated in Aurora's living room, listening to a social interaction that I have been familiar with for too long. But at the very least, I was sipping her wine.

I asked Aurora who she would like to see as the next commissioner of police. Before she could say anything, her helper turned to her, then me, and said, "I don't have one clue. Back a east, police is not wi fren, and until a commissioner can mek dem tun wi fren, mi nuh care bout nuh commissioner."

Aurora and I smiled at each other. I am not quite sure if she picked up the wisdom of what her worker had laid out.

The next commissioner of police must fit himself into an unfriendly bag of bricks, old iron, and a tonload of plain dirt. And once he or she is announced as the winner of the severely reduced lottery numbers, if not the huge winning price and the river of tears cascading after it, that person must make a big pretence that paradise has descended on his or her life.

There are many people in this country who believe that a police chief for Jamaica must be sourced from outside. Where? Which individual with the real chops for it and strong international connections and ratings would trade in whatever gig they had going for them and take a job for much, much less than US$200,000 per year?

Then there are those like me who have observed matters that took place in the past, learned something from them, and allowed what soaked in to better inform me of where the future is likely to go.

The first two lines of the rÈsumÈ of Clifford Blake, who is now acting commissioner of police, states:

"Thirty-two years of service as a member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) performing duties as a constable through the various command levels to the present rank as a deputy commissioner of police in charge of the strategic operations portfolio.

"Career Objective: To positively contribute to the process of modernising and transforming the Jamaica Constabulary Force into a more effective and respected organisation, thereby facilitating the delivery of an improved service to the nation and the public at large."

OK, that sounds generic and it does fit the model of the long-serving policeman who now 'deserves' his shot at the very top. But, let us look a little further.


Foreign-linked police chief would never work


Let us just take a look at the operational work of the man who is now performing duties as commissioner of police and whose official name is 'Acting' Commissioner of Police.

'Joint commander (JCF-JDF) in the planning and execution of the zones of special operations in Mount Salem and Denham Town, as well as the state of public emergency in St James.

'Successfully planned and executed the responsibilities of the police during the 2016 general election and the local government elections.

'Member of the commissioner's executive management board.

'Collate and analyse available statistics to develop policing policies, strategies and tactics.

'Review and revise operational policies and procedures.

'Develop crime-reduction plans and strategies.

'Coordinate practical policing tactics such as mobile patrols, foot patrols, and raids.

'Enforce traffic laws and traffic management.

'Plan and manage major sporting events, musical festivals and official and state visits.

'Represent the JCF on the National Disaster Committee.

Coordinate joint operational and security activities with the Jamaica Defence Force.'

It is nigh impossible for Jamaicans to think about a new police chief without pondering the ideal of a massive decrease in the violent-crime rate. With that thought, it is fair to ask, if it is my personal view that Clifford Blake should be named the new commissioner, what can he bring to the table now that he did not introduce before when he was in the executive ranks?

It is not locked away in some secret drawer that the two chiefs of the JCF who were drawn from the army were fought against by not just the khaki suits at the top, but by the constables, corporals, 'specs', and those just one notch up who were richly endowed professionally and culturally in the illegal drugs trade.

So, all info that these commissioners requested was admitted, dealt with, then sanitised. To me, that rules out the repeat of that failed experiment.


Where the squaddie mentality kills us all


Where an entity such as the Jamaica Constabulary Force, whose supposed mantra is, basically, to protect and serve, sets out to beat up and pummel into submission the weakest, the voiceless, and those most socially incapable of fighting back, it tells us that we have fully embraced the colonial sins of the past.

I was punched in my eye by a policeman when I was 15 years old. At 39, another policeman broke my spectacles and caused a wound just above one eyebrow. I have absolutely no reason to like the police.

One of the critical elements that have hindered community members and, indeed, the courts in getting to the truth of many matters criminal and civil is that policemen band together, and when the infernal need arises, they lie and they destroy not just justice, but lives and relationships.

The very fact that many of those in the 'khaki suit' ranks have neither praise for nor condemnation of the man who is now in the post as 'acting' commissioner of police does not convince me that he is more on the side of either saint or sinner. In fact, it tells me that he is human. And definitely not squaddie type.

In reality, any police chief we get now will have to be that ultimate mix of brains, brawn, street smarts, and knowing which direction the crime wind is blowing.

Twelve years ago when Mr Blake completed his MSc in national security and strategic studies at the UWI, Mona, campus, he did not only top the class in those who were entrants from the JCF, he topped the class, period.

Recently, we have seen him talking tough on corruption in the JCF as far as it relates to the traffic department. The place where 'di money run'.

The members of the Police Service Commission are, I am certain, not irrational human beings. That said, it is impossible for me to penetrate their thought processes.

There may be those saying that Clifford Blake may have been found wanting in the operations to extract Dudus in 2010 and complete the Tivoli operation without loss of life.

To me, if the Pope of Rome was in charge, loss of life could not have been averted. Those individuals like my friend the bomb thrower, Lloyd D'Aguilar, still believe that it would have been possible to enter Tivoli in those circumstances and leave as if there was a church service and a long hymn just going on and on.

In conclusion, it would be most sad if after so many years of struggling with fighting back against the crime monster, there is now no one in any senior post in the JCF fit to lead it.

Frankly, I believe he is already there.

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