Tue | Sep 22, 2020

Mark Wignall | If SOE is not it, what then?

Published:Sunday | November 3, 2019 | 12:00 AM

A recent Gleaner story has informed us that we have already spent about J$230 million in police expenditure on states of emergency (SOEs) and I suspect that those doing the cost/benefit analysis would like to know if the well which provided that amount has, say, another $200 million.

If more violent gangs are not disrupted and if sound cases cannot be developed through expert investigation, we are likely to reach that point of seeing diminishing returns. In other words, at some point the additional spend will just be one grand PR stunt designed to fool the people into believing that dangerous men are being held, if not actually successfully prosecuted.

At some stage we have to ask ourselves, how did we land in this pot of scalding hot oil?

A Jamaican working abroad and who lectures in the social sciences gives me his take: “I respect that you are willing to dialogue with your readers about the serious crime problem in Jamaica in such an interesting and informative way as you did in last Sunday’s piece. I found the former superintendent of police’s comments and analysis interesting and frightening.

“I remember in the 1970s when the cancer of crime started to grow in Jamaica, that a senior police officer told my father the police knew all the gunmen, and that from time to time there was communication with the gunmen to ease up or not commit certain crimes for a while. I was 15 at the time and I was flabbergasted.”

He went on to state, “In the 1970s, politicians began their hideous affair with gunmen, and the foundation for the house of crime was laid.”

Later when we made a direct Whats app call he continued: “As gunmen prospered, others also looked at the situation and determined that it would be profitable to grow and export marijuana and it would be easy because the politicians were so corrupt. Thus, in the 1970s and into the 1990s, many select Jamaicans became exporters of marijuana and became quite rich.”


He went further, “Then the Colombians, seeing how ruthless the Jamaicans could be (having been defeated in gang wars in the US, fighting over territories to sell drugs), decided to do business with the Jamaican criminals and cocaine was moved through and into Jamaica, and guns came pouring in from the Colombians (the CIA and Cuban intelligence service, having provided the initial M-16s and AK-47s in the 1970s). By the 1990s, the gunmen and criminals outgrew the politicians and began to establish powerful criminal syndicates and the politicians lost control.”

Then he touched on something I was long familiar with, having previously read transcripts generated in Jamaica of telephone conversations gained through illegal taps in the late 1990s.


“In the meantime, crooked bankers and financial industry interests laundered the money and facilitated the criminal enterprises. Real estate brokers sold desired land to the newly rich criminals (cash only), no questions asked. The criminals bought legitimate businesses. The cancer of crime was now fully metastasised,” he stated.

“In the hills of upper St Andrew, and all over in exclusive enclaves in Jamaica, many live pretending to be decent, law-abiding citizens. Their reality is much different. They are the ‘washed’ criminals of the 1970s to the 1990s. They now donate to charity, are seen at the best parties, ‘network’ with politicians and business people, and own legitimate businesses. They run things in Jamaica.”


He continued: “Today’s Jamaican criminals are cold, ruthless, rich, murderous, smart, do not fear the police or justice system and are mostly well ahead of the police. There is an unceasing supply of talent, as there are so many poor and desperate youth looking for a way out and food to eat.

“For Jamaica to ‘cure’ itself of crime it will require a herculean effort. Economic development, jobs, education, communities that do not fear the criminals, community policing, a police force that is not corrupt and a special unit of the police force that can eradicate the most severe tentacles of the cancer (Reneto Adams-type policemen. You once authored an article in Observer posing the question: should he return). A serious no-nonsense unit, like the former superintendent discussed in your October 27 Gleaner piece.

“It is the fight of a lifetime for Jamaica. I am not sure if Jamaica is up for that. Too many will be exposed and too many will lose a great deal.”


He is presently a sergeant in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and, according to him, one of the most foolish moves ever made in the security forces in this country was to merge the Island Special Constabulary Force (ISCF) with the JCF.

“The special constabulary members’ duty included security of government ministers’ residents, government ministers, and all other government agencies, such as customs department and the collectorate, keep the town centres free of illegal vending, illegal sand mining, and quarrying, environmental and praedial larceny patrols,” he said.

“By doing all of these duties, the members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force were able to carry out their function when it came to hard-core policing, while the town centres were fully manned with members of the Special Constabulary Force, as this second force was at hand to keep law and order in the town. Believe it or not, with that decision taken in 2014, it was a game changer, as the need was not justified.”

He continued: “There is a need for the re-emergence of the special constabulary, as the country needs another recognised uniform group to fill the void. Some of the district constables can be accommodated in the special constabulary force. All you need is just about 4,000 members, with gradual recruiting to about 4,500 in establishment, to be deployed islandwide within the same format as before.

“The laws and regulations are already there. There are also members who resigned who were not willing to be a part of the merger. Now they are willing to rejoin the force.”

He paused, placed one hand on his head and continued: “I am just wondering how can a force that used to treat the Jamaican people so well was discarded by people that wield authority.

“This wrong must be corrected. Remember these special constables were usually the first ones to be posted at polling stations most times when elections are called. They were the ones that guard the ministers’ residents and protect the revenues at all the government collection agencies. Who is there now? Security guards at a higher cost to the Jamaican government? Many of their members perished and died at the hands of criminals; however, they have eliminated some of the more vicious criminals in Jamaica, as they were embedded in all the crime-fighting aspects of the Jamaica constabulary force.”

According to him, the continued extensions of the various SOEs will not in the medium term net any positives in the fight against crime.

A retired senior superintendent of police with over 30 years service in all areas of the JCF acknowledges that the JCF is one of the most corrupt entities in Jamaica.

“Good policemen stand out but at some stage they have to play games directed by a powerhouse in higher ranks. We need to devise a way to remove people charged and locked up from the care of the police,” he said.

“That is where the first contact with corruption begins in the justice system. If you have enough funds and the right contact, your files can magically disappear. I have not yet worked it out in my mind how to solve the logistics of that move but it has to be done. Many crazy things happen and the public is fooled time and time again. And through no fault of their own, they buy the whole charade.”

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