Sat | Jun 15, 2019

Gordon Robinson | The JCF needs a state of emergency

Published:Sunday | May 5, 2019 | 12:10 AM
Until JCF is radically transformed; until corrupt cops (NOT the hyped “small number”) are weeded out by any means necessary; effective crime fighting will be impossible.
The Minister and Commissioner must transform JCF into a force that’ll protect and defend us, rather than acting as fear-mongering lapdogs for those who would eliminate us.
Until JCF is radically transformed; until corrupt cops (NOT the hyped “small number”) are weeded out by any means necessary; effective crime fighting will be impossible.
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So, the chickens released from JCF coops over decades are finally coming home to roost.

Their coops weren’t opened last Sunday when many completed their return home for some serious roosting. The first coop was opened almost immediately after Independence.

In 1963, continuing the policy of harassment and suppression of members of the Rastafarian faith bequeathed to us by our colonial masters, a large police detachment, reacting to a Rasta revolt that involved the burning of a gas station, invaded Coral Gardens and surrounding areas and “arrested” over 150 bearded men for the socio-political crime of appearing to be Rasta. These men were subsequently brutalised and their locks forcibly shorn.

It took the Government 55 years to publicly apologise for that atrocity. In the meantime, too much water flowed freely under Torrington Bridge. A police operation policy I call the ‘Brute Force and Ignorance’ doctrine was firmly established as the preferred method of crime deterrence.

Another coop was opened in 1976, when an unjust State of Emergency was declared; opposition activists and candidates were arbitrarily detained during a general election campaign; and police were given blank detention forms signed by the national security minister to execute against whoever and whenever their whims or fancies dictated.

The gates to all police chicken coops were flung wide by persistent and cruel implementation of an oppressive, unconstitutional, and despicable piece of legislation passed in 1974 called the Suppression of Crimes Act (SOCA). Security expert Jason Mckay, in an article published on September 24, 2017, accurately wrote that this blight on democracy “not only empowered law enforcement to levels equalled only in Northern Ireland and apartheid South Africa, but created a culture of policing that depended heavily on the suppression of criminal elements. It bore little focus on human rights and significantly less on criminal rights.”

For over twenty years, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), emboldened by this aberrant piece of parliamentary panic, operated with warrantless searches, arbitrary detentions, and an oppressive arrogance that bred fear into the hearts of law-abiding citizens and hostility in the hearts, minds, and families of fearless criminals.

It was an unmitigated disaster, to the extent that when it was finally repealed, police personnel with entire JCF careers governed by SOCA-driven policies were unable to adjust to pre-SOCA policing and so pretended that SOCA hadn’t been repealed. Soon, they were back to “normal” with the passage of Anti-Gang Legislation followed by the zones of special operations (ZOSOs) and more states of emergency (sigh).

SEEK OWN JUSTICE

Now we’ve graduated to allegations of police death squads; police corruption so endemic that decent law-abiding citizens will NOT tell the police what they know for fear of receiving a visit (or three) from the criminals on whom they informed. Some not-so-decent citizens (although the distinction is sometimes tenuous) seek out their own justice. For them, the police don’t exist.

So Sunday’s acts of terrorism that took place between Chedwin Park and Brunswick Avenue/Job Lane intersection in full view of whoever happened to be in the public space was merely more chickens returning to their comfortable roost.

In 2016, a 15-year-old Convent of Mercy student was callously killed by police shooting indiscriminately into a taxi in which she was a passenger in a misguided (at least) attempt to “apprehend” criminals. She was heard asking the taxi-man “Driver, mi a go dead?”

In another high-profile incident, at the trial of Constable Collis ‘Chucky’ Brown, it was revealed that Brown allegedly told INDECOM in a recorded interview that there was a conspiracy between a then senior JCF member and a special police team to use high-powered guns to kill people unlawfully. INDECOM alleged at Brown’s trial (before he was convicted of murder), that he told INDECOM that, between 2009 and 2012, the police “special team” (o/c “Death Squad”) and their colleagues from the Clarendon Criminal Investigation Branch also conspired and planted guns on people who were unlawfully killed by them.

Not so long ago (November 25; Change, We Can Believe In?) in a critique of Andrew Holness’ address to a JLP Conference, I wrote:

“….will he take his cue from Constable Collis ‘Chucky’ Brown’s conviction on three counts of murder, allegedly in furtherance of a covert JCF policy to eliminate suspected violent criminals, as the basis for urgent JCF transformation? Will he have the political cojones to set about changing JCF’s “brute force and ignorance” approach to crime…..?

Will he admit publicly that this narrow mindset, created, nurtured, and driven by legislation….and aided and abetted by successive governments’ policies and attitudes towards security-force methods, has been not only an abject failure but contributed to Jamaica’s increased rates of violent crime? Will he mercilessly weed out those corrupt cops who work hand-in-hand with drug dons and other organized crime lords no matter the level of pushback …?

Or will we be told the conviction of one constable has done the trick? Will we be told we don’t need further investigation to discover how high the rot might’ve climbed or how deep it has seeped in …?

I won’t listen to any more pious nonsense about those ‘decent and honest’ officers performing with credit and integrity. Rubbish! These are the same police who insist community residents inform on murderers in their midst without any guarantee police won’t inform on THEM to the said murderers. It’s full time those ‘decent and honest’ police officers inform on their colleagues. They can’t tell me they don’t know what’s going on, whether or not they’re personally involved. Let THEM set the example THEN ask me to inform on my community gunmen.”

Need I say anything more? As usual, we got NOTHING! Nada! Nought!

Instead, on Sunday, an obvious hit was executed by policemen on a St Catherine man at Chedwin Park. It turns out, they were assisted by use of a police service vehicle in which five guns, a police logbook and blue flashing police lights for emergency situations were subsequently found.

WTF?

It gets worse! There’s a car chase by an off-duty policeman who may have been unaware (it’s alleged the purported perpetrators asserted they were police when accosted at the scene) that he was chasing fellow officers.

The fleeing police vehicle crashes. Police back-up arrives. Somehow, the innocent third-party motorist dies. Reports are he was shot in the face. By who? One of the alleged hitmen/policemen is killed in a “shoot-out” (I suppose what’s good for the goose…..). Another “escapes”. First we’re told he escaped from hospital. Then we hear he “slipped through the cracks” at the accident scene (DCP Fitz Bailey) while in the custody of a fellow officer (Loop News).

What the granny gungus natty is this? Keystone cops? Or something more?

Senior officers flocked media scrambling to limit the damage. But they fail to acknowledge the damage was done over 50 years ago; has been nurtured and encouraged by successive governments/police forces; is now unchecked and can’t be limited. It must be obliterated.

DE-CORRUPTING THE JCF

Is THIS the JCF we want to possess extraordinary powers to breach fundamental rights under a “State of Emergency”? Where do we start this long walk to freedom from the rule of heartless criminals and their facilitators? I’ve repeatedly maintained we must begin by de-corrupting JCF.

I still have confidence in the Commissioner but he must understand his priority is a herculean Augean Stables cleansing. Until JCF is radically transformed; until corrupt cops (NOT the hyped “small number”) are weeded out by any means necessary; effective crime fighting will be impossible. While we twiddle our thumbs respecting administrative processes and police personnel’s rights under these rules, WE are being weeded out by corrupt cops and their associates.

I see we’ve returned to our own vomit with a renewed State of Emergency in three western parishes. In a stunning but clearly implicit admission of failure, Government tripled the coverage of the original SOE. No doubt we’ll be told the need for SOEs in Hanover and Westmoreland was caused by the Opposition’s voting against the SOE in St James. DWL!

Sigh. Let’s see what happens when it’s lifted (unlikely before the next general election), as it must be one day.

But the location that more urgently needs a State of Emergency is the JCF. Government needs extraordinary powers to deal with corrupt cops. Remove (if even for a year or so) “oversight” by the many blind mice agencies cum too-many-cooks-spoiling-the-broth. Make the Commissioner accountable only to the National Security Minister and make Minister accountable to us through Parliamentary impeachment procedures.

Give Minister and Commissioner jointly extraordinary powers of dismissal and equip them with weed whackers. They must transform JCF into a force that’ll protect and defend us, rather than acting as fear-mongering lapdogs for those who would eliminate us.

Peace and Love!

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com