By Gordon Robinson
Crime and policing are back in the news. The Government just doesn't get it. Nor does the police commissioner. It's just not good enough to plead insufficient resources. It's not good enough to blame the IMF.
First, we created the lack of resources with our profligate spending and borrowing ways and, second, we created the context within which we felt obliged to seek solace in the IMF's protection racket. None of this absolves either the police or the Government of their respective obligations to the people of Jamaica to prevent, reduce and solve crime.
In 2012, Jamaica saw a reduction in the murder rate and other violent crimes. There were 1,083 murders; 1,218 shootings; 763 incidents of carnal abuse; 833 rapes; 2,679 robberies; 3,094 break-ins; and 691 larceny cases. It's frightening to realise that these horrendous numbers represented a decrease in 2011's figures, but they were. The police commissioner had no hesitation last year stepping up to several microphones to claim credit for the reduced crime rate as being caused by proactive police actions.
Now that these figures are but wistful past memories, the police and the national security minister must take the blame. What're the police doing with the crime stats they create? Of the 344 murders for the first four months of this year (a quiet period compared to since), 254 occurred in the Corporate Area, St Catherine, Clarendon and St James.
Increased patrols aren't the answer. Where are the 24 hour-per-day surveillance cameras operating in these parishes? Remember, I don't want to hear about resources. Send back the SUVs. Buy the cameras.
Politicians put us in this mess. Politicians must sacrifice to get us out.
Why isn't every single police station fully computerised? Why aren't recruits highly tech-savvy and paid accordingly? Those recruits who show promise, but aren't tech-savvy should be trained on the job. If all my national security minister can do is bleat about lack of resources, get rid of him. Anybody can do that. Jamaica needs a minister who'll properly equip our police force by creative, out-of-the-box methods.
For example, once we acknowledge that a highly trained, tech-savvy force with all the modern tools is the only road to real success (but we bruk), I expect my national security minister to disband the army; absorb retrainable soldiers into the police force; and spend the money now being thrown away at Up Park Camp properly equipping the police.
Everybody knows I'm no fan of Jamaicans for Justice for Some (JFJS), but too much vitriol has attended its recent request for the police to stop killing citizens. JFJS also called for Owen Ellington's resignation. They're right.
Fact: Commissioner Ellington has failed to keep the murder rate under control.
Fact: Commissioner Ellington has failed to improve the police clear-up rate for murder.
Fact: Commissioner Ellington has presided over the highest cumulative rate of police fatal shootings ever in Jamaica.
Fact: Commissioner Ellington has sidelined the one private sector/police partnership that was working, namely Crime Stop.
Our police force killed 36 people in October. That's more than one per day. I know. Sociological factors such as a low IQ populace; poverty; and the warped society in which we live make policing by the book difficult. I know.
Licence to shoot first?
Does this mean a licence to shoot first and ask questions later, as a western Jamaica mayor recently proposed? Do we throw our hands in the air and say, "We can't reason with these people. Let's shoot them down"? What does that make us?
They may be uneducated, impoverished and dysfunctional. We're nasty and brutish. Is THAT what we want for Jamaica's future? A perpetual war of the nasty and the brutish against the impoverished and dysfunctional, with the rest of society cowering behind grilled prison walls (gated communities) supervised by armed warders called security guards?
No. I agree with Carolyn Gomes. This police commissioner has been given a job to do within a dysfunctional society, not in Utopia. He's failed at his job and he has failed to convince the Government, by whatever means necessary, to retool the force.
It's time to send him packing and to see if the next person has any better to offer. If not, kick him/her out too. Keep the revolving door going until we find some forward-thinking police commissioner who won't take 'no' for an answer.
Peace and love.
P.S.: To my good friend Abe: your treatment of the constitutionality of dismissing senators was superficial. Read BOTH my columns on the subject; wheel and come again. There's a difference between a seat "becoming vacant" and the occupant's appointment being revoked. The Constitution deals separately with both.
Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.