Importing the commissioner of police... Really?


Monday, July 14, 2014

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THE Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is once again in search of a commissioner, and there are suggestions that overseas candidates should be considered for the position of top cop.

I must agree that the JCF appears to be in an abysmal state, with glaring leadership deficiencies, but perception is not always reality. The police force is definitely in need of modernisation in order to become more dynamic; not just to annihilate the crime monster, but also to evolve into an effective world-class organisation.

Nonetheless, I vehemently disagree with Mark Shields and other protagonists of the overseas candidate solution. We are an independent nation and it's time that we grow up and learn to solve our own problems. Yes, the force needs assistance, but our people are not that dunce that we can't find a commissioner at home.

There are areas in which expatriates can assist in the development of the force, but to appoint one as commissioner may be a quick fix that will not necessarily translate to sustainable growth. The JCF already has a problem retaining its best and brightest, and lowering the glass ceiling by importing its leadership will cause even further brain drain. That is a recipe for disaster.

Against this background, I propose that the JCF employ a consultant who is a visionary with strong leadership skills, advanced knowledge of police sciences, police policy, and police effectiveness to work alongside the Government and the top brass of the JCF to develop and execute a comprehensive education and leadership policy that fosters the aspiration of young Jamaicans who desire to make policing a career.

However, just another theoretical bluff will not suffice, as the individual should possess the strong personality that is necessary to help eradicate corruption and enhance the overall image of the force. It is time to introduce courses in police sciences at the high school level, especially for students who will matriculate directly into the JCF.

This hired hand (or brain) should be a liaison between the force and the Ministry of Education to make this a reality. Police performance must be evaluated on a continuum to identify and reward excellence and not just years of service.

Even in First World countries police departments grapple with the effective use of their limited resources -- material and human. Therefore, given Jamaica's economic dilemma and the undermanned police force, someone with expertise in the efficient use of police resources would be an invaluable asset to the JCF.

There is an image problem in the JCF and the opinion of the citizenry to its officers is sometimes not characterised by endearment. The privileged class sees the force as the destination of the semi-literate and the poor, while the poor see the police as their perpetual oppressor.

Yes, there are instances of the use of excessive force, human rights abuses, corruption, and extrajudicial killings by rogue members of the organisation — and these issues must be addressed forthwith. However, there is no perfect police force anywhere in the world, and we need to look no further than social media to see videos and read stories that thrash the myth that our officers are somehow inferior.

We must demand accountability from those who have sworn to protect and serve our people, but the force must guard against draconian punishment in every instance of indiscipline. Nonetheless, the persistently deviant officers who are inclined to criminality must be banished from the noble institution and a strong commissioner is needed to fulfil this mandate.

However, the harshest punishment that can be inflicted upon the JCF is to continuously tell the membership that they are not good enough to lead their own organisation.

Jamaicans are talented and smart and continue to excel in all disciplines and in diverse organisations at home and abroad. Chances are we may not have to look beyond our shores, or even outside of the force, for this kind of leadership. If we must, I'm sure that there are Jamaicans in the diaspora who are qualified and possess an understanding of Jamaican culture and of our people, and who would relish the opportunity to serve in such a capacity.

Consider this, at the recent graduation ceremony of Johnson C Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, seven students graduated with perfect GPA. Six of the seven, including the valedictorian, were born, bred, and schooled in Jamaica. This was the first time in the illustrious 150-year history of the university that they accomplished the feat of seven perfect students.

Johnson C Smith University is not a parochial institution by any means, as it recruits the best and brightest from across the world. I can imagine that many young men and women who attended high school with these super six students and thousand others across our nation are just as smart but stayed home to become doctors, lawyers, teachers, and other professionals, including police officers.

Suffice it to say, if they are incentivised to remain at home, the sky is the limit for excellence in leadership in Jamaica and the police force would be no exception. Therefore, despite the odds, don't send a message to these ambitious young men and women of our nation that the police force is just a stepping stone. Instead, nurture the rank and file officers' desires to become parish and divisional chiefs and eventually rise to the top of their profession.

Let careers in the JCF continue to be an inspiration to the young and impressionable minds who reside within the jurisdictions of the officers they love and admire. Give a native commissioner the support that he or she needs. Do
not underestimate the indomitable will of one of our own to champion the cause of the Jamaican people.




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