'Crime schools', body cameras and an apology from a big man

Wednesday, January 29, 2014    

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WE have much regard for Education Minister Ronald Thwaites and he has grown even further in our esteem this week by apologising for the way he handled the police survey of incarcerated criminals and the schools they attended.

It is quite noteworthy that, in tendering his apology on Nationwide Radio's This Morning show, Mr Thwaites said that he had not meant to shame or embarrass any of the schools named in the survey, and he underscored the fact that he ought not to have made such an error given his experience in the communication media.

To us, the real tragedy in how the announcement was handled by the minister was in the fact that it drew attention away from the crucial issues addressed by the survey, which have to do with our children who leave school, not to be productive citizens, but to end up in prison. This is what we sensed from Mr Thwaites' travails. But, as a deacon of some standing, he knows only too well that the way to hell is paved with good intentions.

Naturally, we need to join the principal of Norman Manley High School, Mrs Adaire Powell-Brown, in scolding those of us in the media who rushed to describe the survey's contents as "crime schools", seeing it not for the tragic nature of its message, but as a salacious story that sells.

Too many of us, if truth be told, are content with skirting around the edges, tilting at windmills, rather than confronting the issues, difficult and painful as they frequently are. A huge segment of our school-age population is in dire straits. The solution appears to be somewhere off in the distance.

And, as if to drag us back to reality, news followed this week that some of our girls in uniform from a rural school were caught in an infernal video splashed across the Internet for all to see, in lewd sexual acts with a man or men, clearly of ill repute and reprobate minds.

Let us rap Mr Thwaites on the knuckles, but let us not crucify him, because there are far greater and more abundant fish to fry.

If only our schools could stand in the way of the creation of criminals, some in the police force, then National Security Minister Peter Bunting would not have to be planning to spend scarce resources on body cameras to help prevent unlawful killings by cops.

We are also in agreement with Opposition Leader Andrew Holness' call for greater use of closed circuit television, which is wider than just going after the police, as part of greater reliance on technology in the fight against crime. For sure, there are going to be claims that we don't have the money for it, but very often the use of technology can lead to savings in other areas. For example, the use of CCTV can mean that fewer bodies have to be deployed on the streets.

On this score, however, we are pleased to see the bipartisan support that has emerged. We have called consistently in this space for matters of crime fighting to be taken out of the political arena and we hope that this is a beginning.





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