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Stabroek News

Mark Shields: Determined to succeed
published: Sunday | March 20, 2005


- NORMAN GRINDLEY/DEPUTY CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER
Deputy Commissioner of Police Mark Shields.

Ross Shiel, Staff Reporter

THE NEW Deputy Commissioner of Police with responsibility for crime, Mark Shields, last week received a gruesome baptism into what he has come to Jamaica to clean up - the runaway murder rate and bare faced gunmen running wild.

The photographs at the scene of a gun battle on Bryden Street, east Kingston last week tell it all.

The imposing 6ft 6ins of DCP Shields was seen with his hand at his jaw as he surveyed the scene where six people were shot dead.

For Scotland Yard, the law enforcement agency in England from which he is on secondment to the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), this would have been the worst gun battle for several years, but in Kingston, and in other parts of Jamaica, this is one of many.

WILL DO WELL

Expectations that DCP Shields will do well in significantly lessening the murder and crime rate are high.

A February Gleaner-commissioned poll, conducted by noted pollster Don Anderson, found that 78 per cent of 1,000 persons interviewed islandwide were in favour of foreign police joining the JCF.

Indeed, he has been welcomed by his local counterparts, who, he said, have not shown any hostility towards him. He stressed that his was a specially-created post in the police force, therefore it would not hinder the promotion prospects of those ranked beneath him.

Now, how can the new deputy commissioner apply British policing methods to Jamaica, a different culture and an entirely different situation?

"We need to target the gunmen. There are hundreds of murders being committed, but hundreds less people committing them. They should not be hard to find," the tough-talking Shields said.

A GOOD REPUTATION

DCP Shields indeed has a good reputation. On assuming the post with the Jamaica Constabulary Force, he left one of Scotland Yard's most vital posts: head of Special Branch's International Terrorism unit.

A career detective with Scotland Yard from the age of 18, his 29 years of policing have encompassed organised crime, domestic and international terrorism, fraud, money laundering, kidnapping, murder and gun crime. Many of these are part of the crime scene in Jamaica.

The police, he said, must arrest the criminals who commit crimes, and those 'others' behind them. Policing, he insists, is not "rocket science", but to effective intelligence gathering.

"There are people behind the gunman. These people who pull the trigger would, under normal circumstances, not be able to afford high-powered guns and ammunition. Every effort will be made to get to those behind the gunmen," he warned.

Through his work with Operation Trident in London, DCP Shields places great importance on community involvement in crime fighting. He explained that Operation Trident was successful due to the use of independent advisory groups, staffed by community leaders. This, he noted, built trust between both groups and consequently, the flow of information and arrests. Jamaica, he reasons, must follow this type of policing. And what about cooperation from fellow officers?

"I will be working side by side with DCP Charles Scarlett (head of the crime unit) on a day-to-day basis. My responsibility is to work towards reducing the murder rate and this will not come without cooperation."

While DCP Scarlett heads the crime unit, DCP Shields would appear to have been handed an umbrella role, that of implementing an audit system for crime reports, improving crime scene procedure and monitoring standards.

Under his watch, he promises a zero tolerance attitude, not just to 'dons' and gunmen, but corrupt cops also.

"For the last 20 years, we've been rooting out corruption in London. It happens in every police force, in every society and Jamaica is not the exception that myth makes it out to be. Yes, there is a problem with corruption, but it will not be tolerated. That is not just my opinion but also that of my superior, the commissioner."

DCP Shields was also quite explicit when asked about his views on extra-judicial killings.

"I have carried a firearm as an officer and with that responsibility comes a clear code of conduct, in any police force. You only fire when lives are threatened, not before. Carrying a gun is about containment and the prevention of crime. You have to maintain your integrity as a police officer.

"There are many good police officers who have been frustrated by the crime rate, a lack of resources and the stigma. The work towards turning the situation had already begun, before I arrived."

MANAGING RESOURCES

The issue of resources, he says, is not primarily a lack of, but a question of how to best manage them.

"I meet with senior officers and managers every 24 hours to monitor where resources are being deployed and to discuss how the JCF can become more effective. We are developing action plans for the current crime hot spots such as the Corporate Area.

"Every police force across the world complains about a lack of resources but we must use them efficiently. With results, we can argue for greater resources."

But he needs help. He says government has agreed to the recruitment of "four or five additional assistant commissioners of police in key areas."

He added that while helping to choose his new colleagues, he would be looking for officers who shared a common attitude to policing.

"The officers could be coming from Scotland Yard but also from places like New York, Miami or Toronto, Canada. These are places with strong links to Jamaica, experience of Jamaica culture and their countries should have a vested interest in helping to fight crime in Jamaica," the police executive explained.

Britain, in particular, has lent assistance (and DCP Shields) to help reduce cocaine trafficking from Jamaica. The logic is to reduce the traffic at the point of supply, not as it reaches its demand.

Organised crime, he said, was undeniably an international problem and any police force that thought otherwise, would isolate itself and fail.

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