Thu | Dec 5, 2019

Police force needs transformation, not rebranding

Published:Friday | December 29, 2017 | 12:00 AM


The article "Police makeover closer" (The Gleaner, December 24, 2017) raises serious cause for concern. I fail to see the reasoning and justification that set the context for this proposed change. Where is the transformational curriculum that will guide this "new" police force? The removal of the oath to the Queen; the focus on community policing and giving the police new powers will not change the paramilitary colonial police that was established in Jamaica after the Bogle Uprising in 1865. The talk about rebranding the police force is utter nonsense; changing the label does not mean that the product is new. What is necessary is the transformation of this paramilitary organisation into a modern law enforcement and crime management team.

The history has shown that giving the police more powers has not resulted in dealing with crime and effective administering of law enforcement. For much of its history, the colonial police force in Jamaica had been fighting crime by using scapegoats. Sir Charles Jefferies argues that the establishment of the colonial police force in Jamaica after 1865 was grounded in fear; well-justified fear on the part of the governing class that the existence of this mass of unstable, excitable, ignorant, and discontented people offered a serious threat to law and order. Therefore, harsh laws and penalties were necessary to keep the "instable, ignorant, and excitable" black masses in control.

In earlier times, even the Revivalists were blamed for praedial larceny. I imagine after 1838, black people were all suspect of committing praedial larceny. This offence was a major form of criminal activity up to the early years of the 20th century. It was so because the post-slavery society provided no work or any serious opportunity for the ex-slaves. The 1930s saw another historical milestone with tremendous upsurge in crime, resistance, and police using their bayonets and guns against the black masses. History has taught us that upsurge in criminal activities in Jamaica occurs at point when a significant section of the population is left behind.

The history of the colonial police has created a tradition of dealing with crime and the black masses that must be transformed. Take the case of the war against ganja since the first decade of the 20th century; ganja smoking was blamed for all types of crime. Commissioner T. Calvert's report from the 1940s to early 1950s declared that there was affinity between the smoking of ganja and the rise and fall of crime. His words were strident: the use of ganja, he opined, was associated with the prevalence of crime; it was related to sexual assaults on women and girls; and it was also connected to offences against persons, to robbery, and larceny. Not only was the war against ganja a massive and dismal failure; it may have been a dominant factor associated with corrupting police officers.

The leadership of the police force must develop new thinking that will give them a reasonable grasp of the crime situation in Jamaica. The history of policing and the emergence of high points of crime must not be ignored in the process to create a police force for an independent country. Let us forget about this notion of "rebranding;" it has no place in this kind of discourse. The idea and true meaning of transformation must be embraced and taken seriously.

I am, etc.;

Louis E.A. Moyston, PhD.