Fri | Jul 20, 2018

Letter of the Day | Dangerous for army to do policing

Published:Friday | August 19, 2016 | 12:00 AM


I see where commissioner of INDECOM, Terrence Williams, is positing that the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) should take charge of the Mobile Reserve. His foremost reasons are that the JDF is more accountable, better trained and more equipped. Wow! Your genius is showing, Mr Williams. Better yet, maybe you are clairvoyant to be this perceptive, as opposed to the rest of us.

Mr Williams, every military in the world is better trained, more equipped and capable of better accountability of the movements of troops, weapons and other resources than the police counterpart. It's a reality by design.

Apart from when there is a flare-up of violence, what is there for the infantry soldiers to do, really, apart from training? The primary duty of a soldier is to keep on training until he is needed for war, and in Jamaica's case, a flare-up of gang violence and/or dangerous criminal activities.

On the other hand, the police's primary role is to maintain law and order and preserve the peace, which may not have anything whatsoever to do with dangerous criminal activities or gang violence. The infantry section of the army is arguably the largest of any section, and if the infantry knows nothing but war and survival, it can operate and be perceived as extremely efficient and professional.

However, a cop is a cop. Wherever he is stationed, he has to be a medical practitioner, lawyer, marriage counsellor, tour guide, teacher, and other essential professions. And this is not an exaggeration, because the very day the police publicly refuse to play any one of these roles, condemnation will be a daily utterance.




For the most part, a firearm in the JDF is assigned to one soldier and may be so as long as he serves, while in the Jamaica Constabulary Force, a firearm changes users at least twice per day on average. So, don't you think that accountability would become a little bit more challenging in these circumstances, especially in times of crisis, when men have Kalashnikovs and are firing at will from high-rise buildings?

Sir, I agree with you totally that the police force needs to be shaken up drastically; accountability needs great improvement, and that training is found wanting. Also, I have no beef with you calling for the head of the Mobile Reserve to step down. But to insinuate that the army can do policing is rather silly, emotional, and outright dangerous. I wish they would do it, so you can face the music when things don't go the 'Jamaican way'.

Rank-and-file officers make up the bulk of the force, and if the leaders would lead with conviction and minus the emotions, personalities and politics, the followers would inevitably have to fall in line.