Editorial

A foreign police commissioner? Not so fast!

Wednesday, July 09, 2014    

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The private sector-led lobby for a replacement for Police Commissioner Owen Ellington from overseas is ironic, coming at the height of a private sector-led campaign encouraging Jamaicans to "Buy Jamaican".

If nothing else, Mr Ellington, a locally bred career policeman, proved convincingly that something good can come out of Nazareth.

Those now reviving the old 'everything foreign is better' syndrome, a throwback to a time of grave national insecurity, are showing that they still have no faith in Jamaicans or things Jamaican.

Moreover, they are overlooking the large number of tertiary graduates, many of them lawyers, who have been injected into the Jamaica Constabulary Force and nurtured by Commissioner Ellington. Sending them a signal that they are not considered worthy is to risk discouragement of ambitious Jamaicans from going into the force.

Furthermore, it is mentally lazy to think that the mere bringing in of foreign policemen will, by itself, bring the crime-fighting solution we are looking for.

The desired outcome of bringing in external policemen is that at the end of the appropriate period they should be replaceable by local cops. We are talking about transfer of resources, crime-fighting strategies and operations, administrative best practices and application of technology, including forensics.

Neither should we forget that there are at least three British policemen who have virtually become household names in Jamaica in Messrs Mark Shields, Justin Felice and Les Green.

Undoubtedly, all three have made a contribution to improving the JCF, for which all Jamaicans, we are sure, are grateful. The success of Mr Ellington's tenure suggested that we were on the right trajectory after the infusion of the three Britons into the force. Should we, at this stage, need an overseas commissioner, it would be a clear suggestion that the perceived improvements are mere smoke and mirrors.

In our view, very few would argue that Commissioner Ellington was taking the JCF in a direction that was not satisfying to the nation. He was popularly regarded as one of, if not the best, police commissioners, in recent memory. Most importantly, the figures for major crimes were trending down steadily.

The cost of recruiting an overseas commissioner is not to be scoffed at. According to some reports, to acquire the services of the British policemen proved difficult and the Government had to receive external subsidies in order to pay them. Their salaries led to much grumbling among local officers who felt hard done by the decision.

We are not against the idea of recruiting a foreign commissioner. What we are saying is that we are not yet convinced that there are no suitable local candidates for the job.

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