'Over-reliance on extradition not good' - But cops say it's their big gun
A renowned security researcher has raised concerns that the country's law-enforcement apparatus may have become too reliant on extraditing criminals who continue to operate with impunity.
The concerns of Professor Anthony Harriott, director of the Institute of Criminal Justice at the University of the West Indies, are that an over-reliance on extraditions could serve to weaken Jamaican law-enforcement institutions, while criminals - particularly those involved in lottery scamming - are busy acquiring mansions that serve as "symbols of criminal impunity".
"Not just in MoBay [Montego Bay] and neighbouring areas, but in Kingston you see all the symbols of the successful criminals. People can point to mansions and say that's the mansion of so and so and how they acquired it ... and that creates an image problem for Jamaica because in a sense, they are symbols of criminal impunity and immunity from the law," Harriott argued.
"My concern is that while extraditions are helpful in theory, we may become too reliant on extraditions because many of these people have had long criminal careers. You have a 10-year criminal career, a 20-year criminal career in Jamaica, and it is ended by extradition, and it's a shame on us," he added, citing the extradition of drug kingpin Christopher 'Dudus' Coke as an example.
Coke was the second-generation leader of the 'Shower Posse', a gang that United States (US) officials say was responsible for more than 1,600 murders and the shipment of guns and drugs in that country. He was extradited to the US in 2010 and is now serving a 23-year prison sentence.
GREAT CRIME-FIGHTING TOOL
However, Commissioner of Police Dr Carl Williams is making no apologies for the use of extradition by local authorities, indicating that it was used successfully to crush some of the country's most dangerous drug syndicates in the early 2000s. "Eight of the biggest drug traffickers were extradited to the United States and that was what crippled the drug trade," he insisted.
Williams acknowledged that there are several challenges confronting local law-enforcement authorities and that attempts were being made to address them, particularly those related to the prosecution of lottery scamming, but said that until then, "we should use our most effective tool".
"I don't think we should quarrel about it. I don't think we should even be having any introspective look at ourselves. What we have here is what we have here. We will work to fix it, we should work to fix it, but the tools that we have at our disposal are what should be used to deal with the problems," he said.
"If we want to stop this thing [lottery scamming], we have to use the biggest guns we have, and right now, we have extraditions as our big gun," insisted Williams, who, like Harriott, was speaking on Monday during the second instalment of the discussion series 'Dialogue Between Democracies', which is jointly hosted by the United States Embassy and the Caribbean Policy Research Institute.
COULD WEAKEN INSTITUTIONS
While making it clear that he was not against the use of extradition as a tool to break the back of criminal organisations, Harriott cautioned that it could result in the weakening of Jamaican law-enforcement institutions.
"If we [Jamaica] have weak criminal justice institutions, weak investigative capacity, if you wish, on our end, and you extradite, you can extradite in a way that results in the strong [American] institutions compensating for our weaknesses and we progress in a way that makes the strong institutions stronger and the weak institutions weaker," he reasoned.
"In other words, if we become dependent on the United States for breaking the impunity of the powerful, then we may end up that way," Harriott continued.
He said the challenge for local law-enforcement authorities was to find a way to collaborate with their US counterparts in ways that ensured greater effectiveness, integrity, and capacity for Jamaican institutions.