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Mark Wignall | More expressing need for tougher policing

Published:Wednesday | June 21, 2017 | 12:00 AM

"In certain extreme situations, the law is inadequate. In order to shame its inadequacy, it is necessary to act outside the law ..." Quote from the 2004 movie, The Punisher.

A man sits on a bar stool and breaks the law by freely and openly puffing away at his cigarette, caring little about who he inconveniences. When he is finished, he flicks away the butt to the outside pavement. After one too many beers, he eases himself off the stool, walks across the road and urinates against a light pole.

It would be personally sad were his antisocial behaviours representative of only an infinitesimally small minority of Jamaicans, but, tragically, it is not. We are where we are in Jamaica struggling to rein in runaway murders because there is utility value attached to doing wrong. You know, that thing about playing by the rules and getting shafted for doing so.

It probably begins with a man eating a patty and dropping the empty bag on the pavement closest to him. At the finishing of the tragic tale, there is a justice system where disputes of all magnitudes go to die on the vine and its operation within a poor education system. Add to that economic imperilment for many and a sense among those at the bottom rung of society that government and 'society' have abandoned them, and a generational influx of guns.




All wars begin with heated rhetoric and little skirmishes. It is the failure to define those early stages of our social schisms, put in place wide and workable fixes, and grow our economy for extended periods that have led us into what can charitably be called a confused state of war among ourselves.

It is not so much that the present Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Government keeps getting run over by the regularity of murders that is at the heart of many people's concern, as it is that the Government has not been able to prevent itself from getting steamrolled on a daily basis as it occupies innocent-and-fearful-bystander role and cowers right beside us behind the nearest gated community and zinc-fence pocket and small-town corner.

Now, as much as the evidence has piled up in our observations and in written studies that muscular policing only sows major distrust between the police and the citizenry, there are many people from all social sectors calling for a return of it.

"A war is on," Mac, an uptown businessman, said to me. "You cannot fight a war by throwing rose petals on the ground. The gunmen have declared war and the authorities must push back and recognise the seriousness of the national threat."

"But the police is not going to harass and gun butt you," I said. "They are going to do that to those who live in inner-city pockets."

"Well, that's probably where most of the gunmen live."

Kingsley comes from an inner-city pocket and runs a roadside stall, selling beer, cigarettes, ganja and white rum 'under the counter'. As far as he is concerned, "Wi need fi bring back man like Adams. Look how dem bwoy a gwaan! Nice guy type a policing cyaa work."

"Den what if dem come mash down your stall?" I ask.

"Mi nuh have nuh gun! Mi naw shoot nobody, suh dem nuh have no reason fi pitch mi over."

Many Jamaicans from all sectors of society are downright scared of what is happening with the runaway murder rate, and as much as it depresses them, they await news of the next tragedy if only as a way of constantly redefining the severity of the problem facing them.

The fear has triggered impatience among our people and, acting on an urgent need to stem the murders and alleviate that fear, many are expecting, if not actively calling for, some element of a paramilitary response from the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

Commissioner George Quallo is faced with an unpleasant balancing act between meeting his set objectives of working inside the remit of the law and responding to those who believe that those actions are futile, fruitless and playing to the strength of rampaging gunmen intent on acting outside of the law.

So far, the gunmen are winning.