‘Ma­jor’ mad­ness in ZOSO

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Damion Mitchell

IHAVE spent the past week try­ing to di­gest a com­ment made by Ma­jor Basil Jar­rett, the civil mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion of­fi­cer of the Ja­maica De­fence Force (JDF). Jar­rett, one of the spokesper­sons for the zone of spe­cial op­er­a­tions (ZOSO) in Mount Salem, St James, seem­ingly star­tled him­self in a Tele­vi­sion Ja­maica in­ter­view as he sought to as­sure that the mis­sion will be a suc­cess, de­spite the flood of reser­va­tions by the “doubt­ing Thomases”.

Here’s what the ma­jor said: “I think for most per­sons, they ex­pect to get up in the morn­ing and hear that po­lice and sol­diers are trad­ing gun­shots with crim­i­nals. That was never the in­ten­tion of the zones of spe­cial op­er­a­tions. We knew, we an­tic­i­pated, and, to some ex­tent, we wanted these crim­i­nals to dis­place from the com­mu­ni­ties. When they are on the move, it’s much eas­ier for us to track their move­ments, it’s much eas­ier for us to fig­ure out where they are likely to be holed up. We know that the guns are there and we know that not all of the guns would have been able to move out in a rea­son­able time.”

What! Did the ma­jor re­ally say when crim­i­nals are on the move, it’s much eas­ier for the se­cu­rity forces to track their move­ments? So, where is Duppy Flim? He has cer­tainly been on the move! But this is the part that has given me bad stom­ach: “We know that not all of the guns would have been able to move out in a rea­son­able time.”

What is a rea­son­able time, Ma­jor? And, what would cause some of the guns to move out within that rea­son­able time? And, why would

some, and not ALL, of the guns move out? And, since guns don’t move out on their own, are you say­ing that their car­ri­ers had in­for­ma­tion about the zone be­fore the dec­la­ra­tion and were, there­fore, able to “move out”? Or, were there loop­holes in your cor­dons that caused the crim­i­nals to slip through? And, if you knew that the guns were

there, why didn’t you move to get them all along? Jar­rett seems to have for­got­ten the re­al­i­ties that have hand­cuffed this na­tion for some time now, and the cuffs are only get­ting tighter.

Sur­vey upon sur­vey have shown that Ja­maicans do not trust the po­lice. This means it’s less likely for peo­ple

to call the po­lice with in­for­ma­tion, even about the crim­i­nals. On top of that, I keep say­ing that too many po­lice­men and women, for rea­sons un­ex­plained, seem un­in­ter­ested in tips that can help to solve crimes. But there is an adren­a­line over­flow af­ter a crime has been com­mit­ted, with wail­ing sirens, skil­ful ma­noeu­vres through traf­fic, and mad dash by cops on to crime scenes.

I am care­ful not to broad-brush the en­tire po­lice force, since there are in­deed hard-work­ing pro­fes­sion­als in the or­gan­i­sa­tion. I know that. But it’s hard not to lose hope when I have, at no less a place than the po­lice com­mis­sioner’s of­fice dur­ing his first press con­fer­ence on June 13, raised the con­cern about the fail­ure of the po­lice to ac­cept and act on cred­i­ble in­for­ma­tion in crime fight­ing. In that press con­fer­ence, Com­mis­sioner Ge­orge Quallo di­rected me to av­enues like Crime Stop that he said have been suc­cess­ful. I pitied his re­sponse. But this is a re­al­ity we can­not ig­nore, Ma­jor Jar­rett.

STRAT­EGY BE­HIND ZOSO

Then there is the mat­ter of the strat­egy for ex­e­cut­ing the ZOSO. An el­e­ment that has not been ar­tic­u­lated, and per­haps for good rea­son, is the strat­egy be­hind the ex­e­cu­tion of the zone. If the strat­egy is for crim­i­nals to leave the po­ten­tial zones be­fore the ar­rival of the se­cu­rity forces, I reckon an an­nounce­ment would be made days be­fore the po­lice and sol­diers move in, and then the streets would be flooded with cops to catch the wanted men while on the move.

That was not the case with Mount Salem. It was sup­posed to be a sur­prise, and that’s why res­i­dents woke up to scores of army men and the few cops who obeyed the or­der to re­port to the lo­ca­tion. It’s why I am so puz­zled as to why, as Jar­rett puts it, “not all of the guns would have been able to move out in a rea­son­able time”. What re­ally hap­pened, Ma­jor? I have said from the out­set, and wished to have been proven wrong, that Mount Salem sim­ply needed ef­fec­tive polic­ing. But af­ter Jar­rett’s ut­ter­ances, I’m left to won­der if ef­fec­tive polic­ing is all that’s needed, for, on the face of it, it seems much more needs to be un­cov­ered.

Damion Mitchell is the in­te­gra­tion editor at The Gleaner and co-host of ‘In­de­pen­dent Talk’ on Power 106 FM. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com and damion.mitchell@glean­erjm.com.

FILE

Sol­diers on the ground in Mount Salem, St James, within the gov­ern­ment-sanc­tioned zone of spe­cial op­er­a­tions.

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