Save mil­lions by cen­tral­is­ing po­lice ops

Jamaica Gleaner - - IN FOCUS - Garth A. Rat­tray is a med­i­cal doc­tor with a fam­ily prac­tice. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com and garthrat­tray@gmail.com.

I FELT a smidgen of trep­i­da­tion as I en­tered the di­lap­i­dated two-storey build­ing that was con­demned by the health au­thor­i­ties since 1980. Ter­mite-in­fested, dank, and dingy walls led us from rooms with paint stripped off by Fa­ther Time to oth­ers pit­ted by Mother Na­ture. Gap­ing holes were on the ex­ter­nal walls.

The de­sign of the mouldy, dis­in­te­grat­ing, wooden win­dows with glass made opaque over the years be­trayed the decades-old con­struc­tion. This was no old and de­cay­ing re­mote coun­try house. This build­ing is part of the Ja­maica Con­stab­u­lary Force (JCF) Ad­min­is­tra­tive Block cur­rently in use on the grounds of the Of­fice of the Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice.

The Reg­istry has thin­ning wooden floors that bow, creak, and groan. Its rooms con­tain old of­fice fur­ni­ture and moun­tains of files. It is staffed by po­lice per­son­nel and stores all the files of ev­ery past and present mem­ber of the con­stab­u­lary.

The other build­ings on the sprawl­ing com­pound are not as badly de­te­ri­o­rated, but they are not far be­hind. Some pro­vide of­fices for the deputy com­mis­sion­ers, as­sis­tant com­mis­sion­ers, other high-rank­ing of­fi­cers, and the po­lice Cor­po­rate Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Net­work. The main build­ing ac­com­mo­dates the po­lice com­mis­sioner, his staff, and ad­junct of­fices. It is also home to the Con­trol Cen­tre.

SHELL OF A DREAM

The JCF com­mand has es­sen­tial off-site lo­ca­tions. Many of them rack up sig­nif­i­cant rental costs. They also dis­si­pate the JCF staff and re­quire time, ef­fort, and ex­pen­sive travel fund­ing for po­lice who must com­mute be­tween them for meet­ings and other nec­es­sary or­gan­i­sa­tional ac­tiv­i­ties.

Con­se­quently, Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice Dr Carl Wil­liams ini­ti­ated the ‘Spe­cial Build­ing Project’ at 103 Old Hope Road. It was funded by do­na­tions from con­cerned civic-minded pri­vate busi­nesses with min­i­mal as­sis­tance from the Gov­ern­ment. Mem­bers of the JCF pro­vided all the labour. The 22,000-square-foot, four-storey build­ing is an al­most-com­pleted shell of a dream. It is par­tially tiled, con­duits for elec­tric­ity and com­mu­ni­ca­tions are al­ready in­stalled and la­belled, sev­eral ceil­ing lights are wait­ing to be en­er­gised, par­ti­tion mould­ings are on some floors, win­dow and door frames lay in stor­age, and plumb­ing is pre­pared, but that is as far as the dream goes.

It was sched­uled for com­ple­tion be­tween De­cem­ber 2015 and Fe­bru­ary 2016. It only needs eight to 12 weeks to be ready for oc­cu­pa­tion. Some of the walls are primed in white, like the colour of the ele­phant it is des­tined to be un­less the Gov­ern­ment in­ter­venes ur­gently and com­pletes the project. Fi­nan­cial bug­bears and/or bu­reau­cratic hur­dles de­mand ur­gent at­ten­tion be­cause sig­nif­i­cant mil­lions are be­ing spent off­site while the badly needed build­ing lan­guishes in­def­i­nitely.

The po­lice took the nec­es­sary ini­tia­tive. They were cre­ative in sourc­ing fund­ing. The new, spa­cious, strong, and safe Spe­cial Build­ing Project is just out­side of their grasp. It stands tall amid its crum­bling and haz­ardous pre­de­ces­sors. Leav­ing it un­fin­ished mocks the ad­mirable ef­forts of Com­mis­sioner Wil­liams and the JCF.

DE­MOR­AL­IS­ING

The neg­a­tive psy­cho­log­i­cal im­pact is ab­so­lutely de­mor­al­is­ing. Once com­pleted, it will be able to fa­cil­i­tate sev­eral of the im­por­tant off­site op­er­a­tions that cur­rently cost tax­pay­ers more than $301 mil­lion in rent, main­te­nance, and car park­ing an­nu­ally.

Ob­vi­ously, we must pay for the po­lice sta­tions that we rent, but the re­ally big-ticket items in­clude a com­bined an­nual park­ing fee of about $2.5 mil­lion, an an­nual main­te­nance of ap­prox­i­mately $37.6 mil­lion, rental costs of more than $40 mil­lion for two floors, and rental of about $20 mil­lion for a sep­a­rate floor. And that’s just at one lo­ca­tion. Cer­tainly, re­lo­cat­ing some of those and other op­er­a­tions to Old Hope Road will re­duce spend­ing sig­nif­i­cantly.

The nec­es­sary pub­lic (con­sumer) in­ter­faces can be main­tained where they are now to oc­cupy far less space and fa­cil­i­tate park­ing while the ad­min, ops, records, and bulk of the of­fice staff can be re­lo­cated to Old Hope Road. We are in the 21st cen­tury and cur­rent In­ter­net tech­nol­ogy al­lows for such things.

The Con­sol­i­dated Fund is not an in­fi­nite source of re­new­able in­come. It is a pre­cious com­mod­ity that must be cher­ished, ac­cessed fru­gally, and not wasted. The pow­ers-that-be need to com­plete the build­ing, cen­tralise the more ex­pen­sive JCF op­er­a­tions, and save us bil­lions over the next few years.

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