Columns

'Write or Lef'

By Lancelot Murray

Saturday, July 07, 2012    

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It is a beautiful day in Jamaica. Driving conditions are perfect and you are cruising along a stretch of highway that is pothole-free. Unbelievable! Your car is functioning perfectly. Running nice! You are listening to the soothing sounds of Beres Hammond on your brand new car stereo system. The volume is cranked past the mid-range. You are submerged in the sound quality of your car stereo. Mentally, you are in another world. Everything is beautiful.

You don't realise that you are now travelling over the speed limit and have entered a speed trap. Just further down the road in the distance, you catch sight of a police officer directing you to pull over to the shoulder of the road. You quickly look at your speedometer. You are doing 100k in an 80k zone. "!@#$%^&*. Lawd Gawd, mi dead now!" you mutter to yourself. You pull over to the shoulder of the road and come to a complete stop behind the parked police car as directed.

Two police officers approach your automobile. One on the passenger's side, the other on the driver's side! The police officer now standing at the driver's side of your car says: "Yuh know yuh was going over di speed limit? Licence and registration."

Next thing you know, the officer opens his ticket book, reaches for the pen in his shirt pocket in preparation to issue you a ticket. Just before the officer begins to write, he looks you in the eye and says.

"Sar, wah yuh can do fi yuhself?" "Write or Lef?" Whattt is this police officer talking about? What does he mean by "Write or Lef"?

For those who have experienced this scenario before, you know exactly what this "Write or Lef" question from the police officer means. For those who do not, this is what the officer means: "Lef" means that you should give him some money and he would not issue the ticket. "Write" means that if he is not paid money or given something of value, he will issue the ticket and the fine will have to be paid to the courts.

Extortion in the view of many! What would you do? Write or Lef?

Too many of us choose the "Lef" option, pay the police officer the bribe, avoid getting issued the ticket and go on about our business.

Admittedly, the "Lef" choice is the easier, less costly and hassle-free way of resolving the speeding-ticket problem. However, such illegal acts instigated by some rogue police officers are devastating with far-reaching negative social consequences. It pushes the principles of law and order to the ultimate limit and shreds the very fabric of laws that hold us together as a society.

More drawbacks are:

* It robs the government of much-needed revenue.

* It circumvents the legal system and allows repeat offenders of the law to go free.

* It destroys the credibility of law-abiding police officers who work by the book.

* It lessens the effectiveness of the road laws and rules.

Are the higher authorities of the Jamaica Constabulary Service aware of such improprieties taking place in the ranks of the service? If they are not aware, notice is now being served that such lawlessness occurs. If the authorities are aware, then a stance on the issue should be publicly announced. Also, the measures the police authority will put in place to treat with this problem should be declared.

Here are some possible solutions to the problem:

* Set up sting operations to identify and counsel officers found to be involved in those illegal acts.

* Establish a special telephone number and website for the public to report such inappropriate police behaviour. This should be a function of the office of the commissioner of police.

Lawlessness and corruption of this type must be brought to an immediate halt. However, it will happen only if the policymakers take clear and decisive actions to curtail these crimes perpetrated by those sworn to protect and serve the public.

trinicheeses@hotmail.com

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