Technology-based polic­ing and the sta­tion diary

Jamaica Gleaner - - PEOPLE'S REPORT - THEODORE A. WIL­LIAMS TheodoreA.wil­liams@gmail.com Train­ing De­vel­op­ment Spe­cial­ist

RE­CENTLY, I had an en­counter at a po­lice sta­tion in Port­more that sharply changed my views on polic­ing in Ja­maica.

With the stench of crime and vi­o­lence at our doorsteps, it is hard not to think about polic­ing and the work of our law-en­force­ment prac­ti­tion­ers.

Within one hour of be­ing at the sta­tion, I was deeply stressed for the of­fi­cer on duty who had end­less roles to play, in­clud­ing coun­sel­lor, father, and friend. Hands down, polic­ing in Ja­maica is by far one of the most stress­ful pro­fes­sions, and Ja­maica needs to praise our of­fi­cers for their hard work and ded­i­ca­tion to law and or­der, ci­vil­ity, and jus­tice.

In­deed, the Ja­maica Con­stab­u­lary Force (JCF) has re­branded it­self and em­braced technology to the ex­tent where of­fi­cers now have smart­phones to aid their work in the traf­fic di­vi­sions. At the sta­tion, the of­fi­cer was most help­ful.

But I couldn’t help but no­tice the BIG BOOK. Yes, that fa­mous big book like the pas­tor’s Bi­ble in an old church. It would ap­pear that tak­ing state­ments was re­ally an ap­pren­tice job in the force. It re­ally seemed like pun­ish­ment, sim­i­lar to when teach­ers gave undis­ci­plined stu­dents the same sen­tence to write mul­ti­ple times.

In my view, we should have re­placed the sta­tion di­aries at least a decade ago. Nonethe­less, credit is due to the former na­tional se­cu­rity min­is­ter, Peter Bunt­ing, who fi­nally saw the need to re­place the hard-copy sta­tion di­aries

with an elec­tronic sys­tem.

Or­gan­i­sa­tional change is of­ten met with great re­sis­tance, and as such, the lead­er­ship of the force must have sought the nec­es­sary ex­perts to guide the change process. Not sur­pris­ing, this pol­icy po­si­tion to com­put­erise the di­aries was re­sisted by se­nior mem­bers of the force.

Deputy Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice

Clif­ford Blake ex­plained that the JCF was try­ing to im­ple­ment the elec­tronic sta­tion di­aries, but some mem­bers of the force were say­ing they didn’t want to learn how to type. Did any­body think about the Mavis Bea­con typ­ing soft­ware?

In­ci­den­tally, it was the same ex­pe­ri­ence when the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion sought to im­ple­ment the e-learn­ing project with teach­ers. I won­der if any les­sons were learnt that could have been shared be­tween min­istries.

Pol­icy de­ci­sions re­quire skil­ful con­sul­ta­tion, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and strate­gic plan­ning. I be­lieve the JCF is com­pli­ant with the Gov­ern­ment’s Per­for­mance Man­age­ment Ap­praisal Sys­tem (PMAS). Let’s be clear. The po­lice PMAS sys­tem is more than mea­sur­ing the num­ber of tick­ets is­sued, which is usu­ally the sore point for rank-and-file mem­bers. How­ever, it is a com­pre­hen­sive sys­tem that mea­sures the per­for­mance of mem­bers of the JCF in align­ment with the strate­gic pri­or­i­ties of the force.

WORK PLAN

It is unimag­in­able if the com­put­er­i­sa­tion of the sta­tion di­aries were not cap­tured un­der the PMAS sys­tem. Like most or­gan­i­sa­tions, if you want to get some­thing done, it must first be on the work plan. In Ja­maica, if it can’t be mea­sured, it will not get done. Pe­riod.

We know that the cur­rent sys­tem of re­port­ing is time-con­sum­ing and te­dious, adding to the stress level of our of­fi­cers. I am also con­cerned about the pri­vacy of the in­for­ma­tion that is recorded in the po­lice bi­ble. Es­sen­tially, any­one stand­ing near the of­fi­cer on duty can cap­ture the in­for­ma­tion; in some cases, you have sev­eral re­ports be­ing vis­i­ble.

Thank­fully, Hur­ri­cane Matthew missed us be­cause some state­ments would have been ir­recov­er­able had the dairies got wet. With an elec­tronic sys­tem, it would be pass­word-pro­tected with in­di­vid­ual user names. The data would also be backed up re­motely.

Ul­ti­mately, the JCF would have a com­puter-based sys­tem to gen­er­ate re­ports, fa­cil­i­tate data min­ing (fa­cil­i­tat­ing greater in­for­ma­tion and in­tel­li­gence), and share in­for­ma­tion with key op­er­a­tives in the Min­istry of Na­tional Se­cu­rity in real time. This sys­tem could also be in­te­grated with the Stay Alert Ap­pli­ca­tion cur­rently be­ing used by the JCF. It must be noted that we have the tech­ni­cal skills in the civil ser­vice to un­der­take such a project.

Fund­ing will al­ways be a fac­tor with any in­vest­ment of this na­ture. How­ever, the sin­gle most im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion should be the value be­ing added to the force.

The tech­nocrats in the Min­istry of Fi­nance can com­pute the re­turns on in­vest­ment. Worst-case sce­nario, the Min­istry of Na­tional Se­cu­rity has a num­ber of part­ners lo­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally. A good pro­posal could at­tract fund­ing for such a ven­ture.

Be­sides, some of the sav­ings from the used-ve­hi­cle ini­tia­tive could also be used for this sys­tem. The learn­ing curve for some of­fi­cers will be of con­cern to the lead­er­ship of the JCF. How­ever, with any new sys­tem, it will take time for users to be­come com­pe­tent. Nonethe­less, with the ap­pro­pri­ate train­ing in­ter­ven­tions, it is pos­si­ble in a short time.

We need a cham­pion in the JCF to push for full in­te­gra­tion of in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nolo­gies in all ar­eas of op­er­a­tion within the JCF.

I am hope­ful that some day soon, a traf­fic ac­ci­dent re­port will be made avail­able within a few days be­cause the in­for­ma­tion is shared in real time with the divi­sional head­quar­ters. No longer will crim­i­nals es­cape the po­lice be­cause their in­for­ma­tion was not read­ily avail­able.

It’s time to shake up the force. It’s time to fight crime with technology.

IAN ALLEN/PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

This Honda Civic mo­tor car col­lided with a Honda Ac­cord near the traf­fic light at the in­ter­sec­tion of Port Royal Street and Ocean Boule­vard and crashed into the en­trance to the Kingston Craft Mar­ket on Sun­day, Au­gust 7, 2016. Mak­ing an ac­ci­dent re­port at a po­lice sta­tion can be a painstak­ing ordeal, com­pounded by the in­fa­mous Big Book used by law en­forcers.

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