EDITORIAL - Hope in a better educated JCF

Published: Tuesday | December 31, 2013 Comments 0

In an environment of generally bad news about crime, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF)) has offered a bit of data that this newspaper, desperate, like most Jamaicans, for something positive in law enforcement, will grab on to.

It is a way of sustaining hope. Indeed, it just may translate into something positive.

We refer to this week's chest-thumping disclosure by the police's research unit about the members in its various ranks who possess university degrees or some form of tertiary education.

At the higher echelon of the force, the so-called gazetted officers, or those above the rank of inspectors, 148, or 47 per cent, of the group have undergraduate or postgraduate education.

One fifth of the 479 inspectors are similarly educated, while in the lower ranks, the ratio is around five per cent.

STILL UNPROFESSIONAL

Looked at another way, nearly eight per cent of the members of the JCF, in addition to their training as constables, have tertiary-level education. Most members of the force would have had a high-school education, including, for the younger entrants, passes in at least four subjects in the Caribbean Examinations Council's secondary-school exams.

We suspect that these ratios are not substantially different from most Jamaican institutions. Indeed, the education profile of the JCF has been changed substantially, for the better, over the past decade.

Against that backdrop, a question that is likely to exercise many people is the seeming lag between the improved educational levels in the JCF and its transformation into a modern, professional law-enforcement agency.

Indeed, the public's perception of the JCF is as a corrupt, coarse, paramilitary organisation whose primary crime-fighting method is an exercise of brawn rather than intellect, reflected in the fact that around 60 per cent of all murders in Jamaica remain unsolved and that the police annually kill about 250 civilians in alleged gunfights.

MORE CRIME

Neither government policymakers, including the minister responsible for security, nor the leadership of the JCF, seems capable of producing policies, strategies, or tactics for a sustained reduction of crime. There were more than 1,200 homicides in Jamaica this year, a 12 per cent hike that reverses gains made over a three-year period when there was a cumulative one-third decline in homicides.

This is the case despite the claim by the current minister of security, while in opposition, that the 2010 arrest and extradition to the United States of Christopher Coke had removed the major franchiser of crime in Jamaica.

Beyond the apparent weaknesses at the government policy level, there must be hard questions posed to the operational leadership of the constabulary. With nearly half of the very top leaders of the force and 21 per cent of the second-tier bosses having a university education in addition to their officer training, it would be expected that they, with the motivation of the police chief, represented a critical mass capable of exercising transformative influence of the force.

The evidence does not as yet suggest this to be case. But perhaps, as Owen Ellington, the police chief, said in his Christmas message to the force, the framework has been set "for even greater progress in 2014".

We look forward in anticipation and hope.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.

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