Letter of the Day | Combine army, police force to curb crime
THE EDITOR, Sir:
When Norman Manley founded the People's National Party in 1938, it was supposed to represent the start of a transformational epoch. It was an act that began the transition from 300-plus years of colonialism and inspired a national consciousness that made our Independence possible. Sadly, 80 years later, there is no transformation in sight. What happened?
I offer an out-of-the-box idea that I believe can start to resolve our most vexing national challenge - crime.
Mr Editor, we cannot have transformation without law and order. Law and order is not an outcome of prosperity, but rather a prerequisite for prosperity.
We should all welcome the Government finally taking the bold action needed to start to arrest the free fall of St James into the abyss of dystopia. But we can't stop there. We must integrate the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) into a singular law-enforcement entity.
Uniting the two will enable the nation to benefit from the pooling of institutional resources (i.e., cost savings); far more available deployable security personnel; and a singular chain of command that will enable more streamlined planning and execution.
Discard Ineffective Colonial Model
Having our defence forces out of the barracks on a consistent basis, and in around crime flash points, will magnify deterrence and response capacities. Integrating the forces will not only keep a lid on things until the effects of social intervention programmes (e.g., more options for at-risk youth) and job creation are realised, but will result in the kind of cost savings typical of all mergers.
Further, I have yet to hear a compelling argument explaining how the JDF's current mission statement, "to deter or to defeat threats against the Jamaican State or its interests", is applicable in the 21st century. The threats to Jamaica live right within our borders and not across the Caribbean Sea. It's high time we discard the outdated colonial orientation of the JDF in favour of one that aligns with the domestic realities of what we face in 21st-century Jamaica.
Consider that Costa Rica reorganised its national-security apparatus in 1996, coalescing its police and military forces into one unit.These forces are now all under the Ministry of Public Security and organised into geographic subcommands performing ground security, law enforcement, counternarcotics, and tourism security functions. Today, Costa Rica enjoys one of the highest levels of security and property in the Americas. Sure, there are other reasons for our neighbour's success, but we'd be foolish to think that how they have organised their security forces is not one of those reasons.
Last, I remind my co-citizens that Jamaica is a nation at peace with its neighbours. Both the near- and long-term threats are manifest here at home, not on some future European battlefield. Our threats are domestic criminal elements that kill innocent people with impunity, and they are holding our future hostage. Mr Editor, we have given traditional crime-fighting 80-plus years to deliver for the Jamaican people. It hasn't worked!
What do we have to lose by trying a different model? A model that other nations with similar development challenges with far better outcomes - let's be truly transformative and consolidate our security forces so that the victory over sky-high crime can be locked in for generations to come.
WINSTON P. BARRETT
Manor Park, St Andrew