Po­lice be­com­ing more pro­fes­sional

Jamaica Gleaner - - IN FOCUS - Mark Rick­etts Mark Rick­etts, econ­o­mist, au­thor, and lec­turer liv­ing in Cal­i­for­nia, was chief econ­o­mist of the Van­cou­ver Board of Trade in Canada; deputy chair­man of the Ja­maica Stock Ex­change; as­sis­tant edi­tor of the ‘Fi­nan­cial Post’, Canada’s largest fi

“We must deal with the root causes of crime and vi­o­lence. Then the cy­cle will be bro­ken and we will not be doomed to re­peat it by bury­ing so many in­no­cent per­sons and per­pet­u­at­ing the moral panic.”

– Dr Carl Wil­liams

IN THIS sec­ond of a two-part se­ries (the first of which ap­peared two Sun­days ago), the com­mis­sioner of po­lice, Dr Carl Wil­liams, is impressed that the po­lice are be­com­ing more pro­fes­sional. What’s un­for­tu­nate, how­ever, is that such im­prove­ment is that over­shad­owed by the re­cent killing of a school­boy in a very bru­tal fash­ion on a bus.

The nightly news on TV, ra­dio broad­casts, so­cial me­dia, the daily news­pa­pers carry the grue­some de­tails of crime and vi­o­lence in our so­ci­ety. Many peo­ple are wor­ried and on edge. Those af­fected di­rectly or in­di­rectly are pained, are sad­dened, and some have be­come anaes­thetised in or­der to cope with the in­creases in mur­der.

One ap­proach is to dis­arm our fears by high­light­ing the high levels of gang mur­ders, re­venge killings, and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, im­ply­ing that hor­rific sit­u­a­tions are not as widespread, im­me­di­ate, and as threat­en­ing to some of us as sug­gested by the num­bers.

Of some con­so­la­tion also is the com­mis­sioner of po­lice stat­ing in the pre­vi­ous col­umn that all vi­o­lent crimes, ex­cept mur­ders, are on the de­cline over the last five years.

Yet, a trou­bling re-en­act­ment at 85 Red Hills Road, which has been with us as a so­ci­ety for over 60 years, is the is­sue of gov­er­nance, the rule of law, a right of en­ti­tle­ment to cap­ture land and erect hab­it­able struc­tures and to in­sti­tu­tion­alise that right the longer the land is oc­cu­pied. Any ap­peal to law and or­der is blunted by poverty. In such a sit­u­a­tion, re­spon­si­bil­ity will al­ways be gut­ted by the rights of the poor, the pow­er­less, and the de­fence­less; dis­ci­pline, and the rule of law, in par­tic­u­lar, sideswiped by the ab­sence of al­ter­na­tives for those be­ing asked to com­ply.

The ques­tion is al­ways posed, so where is the poor squat­ter to go? Where is the poor ven­dor sell­ing a few ac­k­ees and some man­goes in an up­town res­i­den­tial neigh­bour­hood, and not trou­bling any­body, to go?

In­sis­tence on proper plan­ning, land use, zon­ing, and ad­her­ence to the rule of law, crit­i­cal el­e­ments of good gov­er­nance, have never been rig­or­ously im­posed and en­forced in many ar­eas through­out Ja­maica, so now, com­mu­ni­ties are over­run with in­for­mal set­tle­ments that lack ap­pro­pri­ate ameni­ties and in­fra­struc­ture, in­clud­ing san­i­ta­tion. Adding to the prob­lems, as Dr Wil­liams pointed out pre­vi­ously, these set­tle­ments were never de­signed or built to fa­cil­i­tate proper polic­ing.

Con­tin­u­ing on that same theme of so­cial dys­func­tion, the com­mis­sioner, in re­sponse to emails and dis­cus­sions with read­ers of the first in­stal­ment, re­minded them that what we have is a feeder sys­tem.

“When we go in and clean up an area or a com­mu­nity and ar­rest all the bad in­di­vid­u­als, if the un­de­sir­able so­cial con­di­tions re­main in­tact, or if we fail to deal with those con­di­tions that created the crim­i­nal in the first place, al­most in­vari­ably you are go­ing to find the same high rates of crime be­ing re­peated. Some­how, as a so­ci­ety, we are go­ing to have to place greater em­pha­sis and im­por­tance on the fam­ily, on schools, on ed­u­ca­tion, on san­i­ta­tion, on em­ploy­ment, on com­mu­nity.”


On the ques­tion of the dif­fi­cul­ties the po­lice some­times face in ap­pre­hend­ing some­one sell­ing in an area not des­ig­nated for vend­ing, or ar­rest­ing some­one who has just stolen some­thing but yet has gar­nered much sym­pa­thy from an en­cir­cling crowd in­clined to ha­rass and jos­tle the po­lice­man un­less he or she ad­heres to the re­quest to give the per­son be­ing ar­rested a break, the com­mis­sioner points out, “So many times peo­ple lose sight of the big­ger pic­ture, the need for pub­lic safety, se­cu­rity, law, and or­der. Some­how there is not enough civic duty or pride, and there seems to be some as­pects of our cul­ture that let peo­ple want to sup­port law­less­ness.”

Re­spond­ing to state­ments made in the me­dia, and even ex­pressed in plays and songs, where the po­lice­man is the vil­lain, that all cops are trig­ger­happy, are on the take, and are the bad guys who can’t be trusted, the com­mis­sioner ad­mits that there are a few bad ap­ples in the force who clearly tar­nish the im­age of all the good men and women who serve with pride, with hon­our, and with dis­tinc­tion.

He is, how­ever, adamant and forth­right that he has a truly pro­fes­sional force that is well trained and highly dis­ci­plined. Many of them are high-school and univer­sity grad­u­ates and many have im­proved them­selves aca­dem­i­cally or through job-spe­cific train­ing in sev­eral ar­eas.

A point of some pride for the com­mis­sioner, which he pro­claims with­out reser­va­tion, is that in re­cent years, the JCF has had one of the most ro­bust re­cruit­ing and vet­ting sys­tems in Ja­maica, which is com­pa­ra­ble to any other po­lice or­gan­i­sa­tion in the First World, or any other coun­try for that mat­ter.

He is es­pe­cially de­lighted that Ja­maica has a state-of-the-art poly­graph cen­tre that can fa­cil­i­tate mul­ti­ple poly­graph ses­sions si­mul­ta­ne­ously and has the ca­pac­ity to de­liver poly­graph train­ing to both lo­cal and over­seas law-en­force­ment of­fi­cials.


“We have stricter screen­ing meth­ods and our poly­graph tests are sup­ported by other vet­ting tools such as fin­ger­print­ing and psy­cho­me­t­ric eval­u­a­tion. Our poly­graph ex­am­i­na­tions are used not only for ad­mis­sions to the force, but used in es­tab­lish­ing in­tegrity when pro­mo­tion is be­ing given, es­pe­cially at the se­nior rank.”

Dr Wil­liams says he is push­ing hard to pro­mote and en­sure a cul­ture of ethics within the force, and to this end, up to Au­gust this year, there was dis­ci­plinary ac­tion taken against 200 po­lice of­fi­cers who worked against the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s pro­to­col and stan­dards, in­clud­ing erod­ing the pub­lic trust with al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion.

Re­port­ing on the strength of the in­ves­tiga­tive skills of the force, the com­mis­sioner as­serts: “We are a coun­try of laws, and as po­lice out there, we know the courts are an up­hill bat­tle be­cause it is not just the pre­pon­der­ance of the ev­i­dence but guilt be­yond the shadow of doubt. We must have ev­i­dence and wit­nesses. At all times, we have that chal­lenge to up­hold the stan­dard of proof.

“In ad­di­tion, we have to en­sure that 1) We don’t vi­o­late the rights of

peo­ple. 2) We take spe­cial care in our

in­ves­ti­ga­tion. 3) We find the peo­ple to be cul­pa­ble who are really cul­pa­ble.” With a strong de­sire to be fair and frank, and recog­nis­ing the re­al­ity of Bud­get lim­i­ta­tions, Dr Wil­liams hes­i­tantly makes the case that the force needs more men, more cars, and much more equip­ment, es­pe­cially equip­ment that re­flects the global ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy.

“Crime has gone high-tech, and we must keep pace as far as CCTV, data col­lec­tion, stor­age, link­ages, and ac­cess to and use of smart­phones, tablets, and com­put­ers by our men out in the field.”

The com­mis­sioner is es­pe­cially pleased with the new body cam­eras as they will aid in ac­count­abil­ity and trans­parency.

What he finds a lit­tle dis­con­cert­ing is the im­bal­ance be­tween INDECOM and the In­spec­torate of Con­stab­u­lary, which is the com­pan­ion agency. “INDECOM has an ex­tra­or­di­nary amount of power to in­ves­ti­gate, ar­rest, and pros­e­cute po­lice of­fi­cers, while the In­spec­torate of Con­stab­u­lary has no such power in de­fence of the po­lice. Jus­tice is clearly lop­sided.”

In spite of all the over­ar­ch­ing prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with so­cial dys­func­tion in our so­ci­ety, a point of some com­fort and pride for the com­mis­sioner is the fact that the Ja­maica Con­stab­u­lary Force is an em­ployer of choice for a great num­ber of in­tegri­ty­driven and highly qual­i­fied pro­fes­sional re­cruits who are poised to de­velop and fully utilise break­throughs in tech­nol­ogy and mod­ern polic­ing. This re­al­ity, to­gether with the in­creas­ing pro­fes­sion­al­ism of the force that the com­mis­sioner al­ludes to, could go a far way in com­bat­ing crime and vi­o­lence in our so­ci­ety.



Carl Wil­liams, Ja­maica’s po­lice chief.


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