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EDITORIAL - If Mr Williams has the guts

Published:Wednesday | September 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM

There is no question that Carl Williams is academically qualified. He has a PhD in criminal justice.

Mr Williams is also perceived to have operational successes in senior positions in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), where, most recently, he has been in charge of crime management. But the attention is more specifically on his leadership of the specialised agencies, like the lottery scam task force that went after the criminals who swindled mostly elderly Americans out of their savings, as well as the inter-agency group, MOCA, that now targets this type of organised crime and corrupt officials.

A dozen years ago, too, his leadership of the police Narcotics Division was credited with giving new energy to Jamaica's anti-drug campaign, restoring the trust of our foreign partners in the country's commitment to the effort, and leading to the conviction and/or extradition of a number of drug kingpins.

Those same international partners, more specifically, the United States, Britain and Canada, whose law-enforcement agencies he, as Jamaica's new police commissioner, will have to interact with on even more sensitive issues, still believe in Carl Williams' integrity. He is perceived, we are told by someone au fait with the vetting of Mr Williams for the job, as being "squeaky clean".

This newspaper has no cause to doubt any of these assessments of Carl Williams. Indeed, they are reassuring qualities in the leader of an organisation that is perceived to be riddled with corruption. But there is something beyond Mr Williams' education, past successes and personal honesty which will be important if he is to be a successful police chief in the sense we, and most Jamaicans, want him to be - a transformational one.

For that, Carl Williams must possess another kind of fortitude; that is, his capacity to transcend the JCF as it is and as he has known it and in which he has, up to now, cradled a successful career. Of course, recent police commissioners have made gains in leading the JCF away from the paramilitary, brawny-type institution it has been for generations to one more given to consensual policing and respectful of the rights of citizens.

'Squaddie mentality'

But they have not achieved nearly what is possible, for none of the insiders, in our view, been able to fully extricate themselves from what Jamaicans refer to as the 'squaddie mentality' - the sense of institutional belonging, loyalty to the organisation and the groups within it that nurtured them.

So, even those who are personally honest and grasp, intellectually, advanced policing paradigms find it difficult to go after corrupt colleagues, or to radically dismantle archaic operational regimes. Or, they are slow about it.

How Mr Williams goes about these things will be an important measure of his success, especially against a critical mandate set by the national security minister, Peter Bunting, and demanded by our international partners: the continued "professionalisation of the JCF with special emphasis on respecting the human rights of citizens". Going after, or at least sidelining, corrupt colleagues in the senior ranks, Mr Williams will find will be as critical a part of the strategy for fighting other forms of crime, such as murder, whose alarmingly high levels so concentrate Jamaican minds. It will be in building trust and giving citizens a sense of real ownership of the effort.

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.