Jamaica Gleaner

Walk com­mu­ni­ties again!

Ex-cops call for more con­nec­tion with res­i­dents, but Force lead­er­ship says for­mer of­fi­cers need to move with the time

- Corey Robin­son Staff Re­porter

THREE FOR­MER crime fight­ers, who made their names on the gritty streets be­fore end­ing their long ser­vice to the Ja­maica Con­stab­u­lary Force, have pointed to a lack of lead­er­ship, a fail­ure to con­nect with the peo­ple they serve and an ab­sence of com­mit­ment by some mem­bers of the Force as the rea­sons the po­lice are now strug­gling to tame the crime mon­ster.

The three ex-cops, who all re­tired af­ter hav­ing each served for more than 30 years, are dis­ap­pointed with the fail­ure of the Force to put a lid on crime, and last week gave their take on what is go­ing wrong.

Al­te­morth ‘Paro’ Camp­bell, who re­tired af­ter be­ing pro­moted to the rank of deputy su­per­in­ten­dent, ar­gued that the Force is now fac­ing a chal­lenge with the level of com­mit­ment be­ing shown by its young mem­bers.


How­ever, Camp­bell placed the blame at the feet of some di­vi­sional com­man­ders.

“The man them too de­tached from the streets. They need to get into the com­mu­nity, get more in­volved with the peo­ple. I am not see­ing where they are do­ing that as much as be­fore,” said Camp­bell, who spent his 40-year ca­reer at the Fly­ing Squad and in volatile di­vi­sions in­clud­ing St An­drew South, Kingston Western and St An­drew North.

“Po­lice to­day need to see their job as a busi­ness and the peo­ple as their clients. You can’t op­er­ate with­out your clients,” said Camp­bell.

“Some di­vi­sional com­man­ders I know of will go into of­fice and don’t come out ’cause them don’t know the streets. You must go out on the streets with the men you lead so you can build their con­fi­dence. They need to see you with them,” said Camp­bell.

For re­tired Se­nior Su­per­in­ten­dent Calvin Ben­jamin, to do a com­par­i­son be­tween then and now would not be fair.

Ben­jamin, in his 40-year ca­reer, served as crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tor at the Ma­jor In­ves­ti­ga­tion Task Force, the Kingston Eastern and Western po­lice di­vi­sions, In­ter­nal Af­fairs, and at the then Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tion Branch head­quar­ters.

“If you are talk­ing about the West Indies cricket team of the ’70s and the ’80s, and the West Indies cricket team now, it’s two dif­fer­ent eras. To com­pare which bats­man is bet­ter than which bats­man now, I can’t do that,” said Ben­jamin.

“There is too much de­pen­dence on the tech­no­log­i­cal part of it (polic­ing) to­day. I don’t have a prob­lem with tech­nol­ogy but for the tech­no­log­i­cal part of it to work you must de­pend on the hu­man as­pect of it as well. You must en­sure that the hu­man con­nec­tion is there too,” said Ben­jamin.

But re­tired Su­per­in­ten­dent Hugh Bish, who served for more than 30 years, is not con­vinced. He be­lieves that cops in past decades were more at­ten­tive to res­i­dents of the com­mu­ni­ties they served than the po­lice are to­day.

“Back in my time, we re­sponded to ev­ery call. Some­times we find some­thing and some­times we don’t. I don’t want to say that it is not hap­pen­ing now be­cause that would be spec­u­la­tion, but these tac­tics usu­ally work for us,” said Bish, who op­er­ated as a homi­cide in­ves­ti­ga­tor in some of the gang­lands of Claren­don, Kingston, St An­drew, Port­land; and at the Mo­bile Re­serve, among other units.

“You have to work with the peo­ple. If a man see some­body hid­ing some­thing and call you as the po­lice and when you come all you find is a stick, it doesn’t mat­ter,” said Bish.

“What has hap­pened is that man is a hun­dred times more will­ing to call you next time, and chances are you will go there and find more than a stick.”

But Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice Carl Wil­liams is not con­vinced that a lack of com­mu­nity en­gage­ment by the po­lice is at the heart of the prob­lem.

“I don’t know; I have not got­ten that im­pres­sion any at all. We have a new sys­tem in place now that is help­ing us to en­gage the com­mu­ni­ties in a much more in­ti­mate way. In fact, polic­ing as it is prac­tised now (com­mu­nity en­gage­ment) is al­most a phi­los­o­phy,” said Wil­liams.

“So we get peo­ple to go into the com­mu­ni­ties and it is more than just for the po­lice’s sake, but they in­ter­act and en­gage with the com­mu­nity,” he said.


As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner Gary Welsh, head of the po­lice Com­mu­nity Safety and Se­cu­rity Branch, un­der­scored the com­mis­sioner’s po­si­tion as he pointed to a dis­tinc­tion be­tween com­mu­nity re­la­tions, which he said was be­ing prac­tised decades ago, and com­mu­nity polic­ing.

“We have a great ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the work and worth of those who served be­fore us. They cre­ated a great foun­da­tion. In yes­ter­year, I’m talk­ing 10-15 years ago, we had what was called a com­mu­nity re­la­tions fo­cus, which was the po­lice cre­at­ing a re­la­tion­ship with the cit­i­zens for the ben­e­fit of the po­lice,” said Welsh.

“To­day, we have tran­si­tioned from com­mu­nity re­la­tions to com­mu­ni­ty­based polic­ing. The fo­cus now is to have both sides ben­e­fit­ing. It’s a part­ner­ship.

“You have to un­der­stand the sub­tle dif­fer­ence. Com­mu­nity re­la­tion is ask­ing ‘what can the po­lice get out of the com­mu­nity’. Now we are say­ing let us cre­ate this part­ner­ship, where it is more than see­ing what we can get, but also about tack­ling some of the other so­cial is­sues,” said Welsh, who has served some 20 years in the Force.

 ??  ?? FILE A bush fire that was rag­ing in Western St
FILE A bush fire that was rag­ing in Western St Thomas.
 ??  ?? BEN­JAMIN
 ??  ?? WIL­LIAMS
 ??  ?? BISH
 ??  ?? CAMP­BELL

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