Tue | Feb 20, 2018

Back to basics

Published:Thursday | October 13, 2016 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju
Sergeant Dorenton Grant makes some new friends during a back-to-school treat for children in the Kingston Central Police Division in 2013. The treat was held at the Kingston Central Police Station.
The graduating class of December 2013 from the Jamaica Police Academy in Twickenham Park, St Catherine.
Beverly Ramsay greets Senior Superintendent of Police Steve Mc Gregor when he head of the Kingston Central police division in 2013.
Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin

Any serious effort to bring the Jamaica Constabulary Force more in line with achieving its mission to serve, protect, and reassure the public must begin with rooting out the culture that embraces and glorifies the actions of rogue cops, according to former police commissioner Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin.

"The population of this country glorifies 'bad-man' police and loves them," he told a Gleaner Editors' Forum on Tuesday. "To fix the police, we have to fix the culture," the career soldier, who retired as chief-of-staff of the Jamaican Defence Force, advised.

He advocated getting back to basics by implementing true community policing as a major part of the fix and lamented the lip service that now passes for community policing. The former top cop pointed to the structure of the organisation as a major hindrance to this most effective policing strategy.


Structure wrong


New York, with a police force in excess of 40,000 thousand cops, has one commissioner, one senior deputy, and four deputy commissioners - a rank that is equivalent to an assistant commissioner of police (ACP) in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).

The Metropolitan Police Service, which is the territorial force responsible for law enforcement in Greater London, has one commissioner, one deputy commissioner, and four assistant commissioners. As of October 2011, it employed 48,661 full-time personnel. This included 31,478 sworn police officers, 13,350 non-police staff, and 3,831 non-sworn police community support officers. This number does not include the 5,479 special constables who work part time (a minimum of 16 hours a month) and who have the same powers as their regular colleagues. This makes the Metropolitan Police the largest police force in the United Kingdom by a significant margin and one of the biggest in the world.

By contrast, the JCF, which has 11,000 members, is headed by a commissioner, five deputies, and 15 ACPs, with which Lewin takes issue.

"The whole structure, the whole concept of the thing is wrong. Policing must be at the community level. It has to be, where the rubber meets the road, you have a structure that is militaristic, hierarchical, and so when Montego Bay blows up, no tangible thing is going to happen until it gets out of hand and 103 Old Hope Road (Police Commissioner's office) responds with a massive thing. It is to be dealt with at the local level because you know what is happening."


Won't happen overnight


Effecting the necessary changes to improve law enforcement in Jamaica will not happen overnight, with at least a 10-year time span needed to achieve the required transformation.

"You can't reform it. You have to transform it, and there is a clear difference. It doesn't mean you are going to shut it down and start over, and there is a gap. That's not the way; can't happen," he advised.

"I think that there are deeper things that you deal with, so the police will start outthinking criminals. Not the way it happens now," he suggested.