By George Davis
With a reported 902 persons murdered between January 1 and October 5 this year, pressure is building on the Government and the security forces to deal with the thugs whose fierce inter- and intra-gang rivalries have accounted for a staggering 80 per cent of that number.
Simple arithmetic shows that over the 278-day period, an average of 3.3 Jamaicans were killed each day. That's a weekly murder tally of 23. Those numbers are frightening enough to suggest strongly that the crisis of crime is here once again to test the mettle of our leaders, even as it forces the citizenry to become more dependent on the false comfort provided by even greater layers of personal security.
The crisis of crime appears to have re-emerged at a most inopportune moment for the men and women of the Jamaica Constabulary Force. For at a time when crime is rivalling joblessness for the most significant problem facing Jamaicans, the police are in a huff about the workings of Terrence Williams and his team at the Independent Commission of Investigations.
At a press conference called by various police groups recently, which was advertised as a solution-oriented exercise to address the crime problems, the law enforcers laid into INDECOM and Supreme Court Judge David Batts for seemingly making their working lives more difficult.
In late June, Justice Batts ruled that the police have no power to arbitrarily stop and search motor vehicles. Around the same time, the Constitutional Court ruled that INDECOM does, indeed, have the power to arrest and charge police personnel and didn't need a ruling from the director of public prosecutions to initiate prosecutions.
According to the chairman of the Police Federation, the rabble-rousing Sergeant Raymond Wilson, those two rulings appear to have significantly affected the morale of police personnel and the "subsequent passive undertone in the execution of their duties".
Now after listening to that, I swear you could have knocked me down with a feather plucked from the throat of a baby pigeon. Is the sergeant, an honest policeman, telling the Jamaican people that the police have been giving less than optimum since those rulings? Is he serious in suggesting that in this time of violent crime crisis, the police, our guardians and defenders, are too pissed off to apply themselves professionally?
This, because of one ruling that clarifies how vehicle stop-and-search operations should be conducted and another which simply reaffirms powers which INDECOM knew it had from it opened its doors in August 2010?
Tantamount to a Threat
Sergeant Wilson goes on to state that the invitation by INDECOM for all motorists to report to it any arbitrary stop and search has been interpreted by the police as being "tantamount to a threat to prosecute any police officer in the event that members of the public were stopped and searched subsequent to the Justice Batts ruling".
If the sergeant is to be believed, it's clear there's a mental fragility and impairment of understanding within the constabulary which requires the urgent attention of clinical specialists!
Worryingly, the Police Federation boss claims that the ruling has forced his members to stop and search fewer vehicles, the consequence of which is that more guns have been crossing divisional borders to be used in the commission of crime.
Sergeant Wilson posits that INDECOM's detention of two policemen for six and 12 days, respectively, before charging them is a breach of their rights under Section 15 of the Jamaican Constitution and Section 22 of the Bail Act. He laments situations in which, "even with signs of a lawful police shooting", police personnel are still subjected to INDECOM's investigative process.
It's clear that the country is in even deeper doo-doo than I thought. At this rate, we have a crime monster projected to devour more than 1,000 of us by the end of the year. And yet we have a police force, under-resourced and overworked, in an increasingly dangerous country, emotionally upset by the work of an oversight body with balls and a court ruling seeking to assert the rights of long-suffering motorists.
Jamaica House, we have big problems.
George Davis is a journalist. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.