A police force in need of major surgery

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

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It was palpably clear to us that the appointment of Mr George Quallo by the Police Service Commission (PSC) as Jamaica's 29th chief constable was calculated to boost morale in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).

For it was obvious that the members of the constabulary were suffering from extreme bouts of low self-esteem and an almost singular desire to just turn up at work, do the required hours, and go home. We, like many other people in the country, welcomed Mr Quallo to the post, wished him well and advised the politicians to resist interfering in his work.

Clearly, that advice was not taken and Mr Quallo — by all accounts a decent and honourable man — was basically kicked to the curb last week by the PSC after his relationship with National Security Minister Robert Montague soured.

This country needs to find a way to protect the office of police commissioner from the destructive grasp of politicians, because that is one of the factors that has hampered the efforts of successive commissioners to effectively deal with corruption in the JCF.

We recall Dr Carl Williams, just before leaving the job on early retirement — mostly, we believe, because he was frustrated by politicians — lamenting that he was unable to “ensure that the force was so clean that everyone would respect the members and perhaps even come to love police officers”.

“We don't have the full respect of the public because there are some members of the force who are still inclined to do the wrong things, to be unprofessional, so that is something that I wish we had done more,” Dr Williams told this newspaper.

Of course, Dr Williams was not the first commissioner to have spoken publicly about this plague that the JCF seems unable to divest.

Previous commissioners Mr Owen Ellington, Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin and Mr Lucius Thomas were very vocal about this problem and implemented measures to cleanse the police force.

We have pointed out this fact before, and it is worth repeating, that the anti-corruption drive begun during the tenure of Mr Francis Forbes gained strength under Mr Thomas, was pushed even more by Rear Admiral Lewin, and was taken so much further by Mr Ellington that it gained him enemies in the police force.

In fact, we recall Mr Ellington, during his time in office, informing us that the policy resulted in more than 400 cops being cashiered between 2007 and 2013 after undergoing psychometric evaluation, panel interviews, ethical screening, and mandatory polygraph testing in order to gain promotion, as well as to re-enlist.

The process also required them to declare their assets and liabilities and submit to the police High Command receipts of their last three declarations.

Any entity staffed by humans will always have to deal with the errant ones, but we believe that had Mr Ellington been given a chance to continue his successful anti-corruption drive, the JCF would be a much cleaner organisation today.

As it now stands, the culture of corruption is so virulent that nothing outside of major surgery can save the JCF. That operation must include a complete overhaul of the police force to include new, trustworthy people in the hierarchy supporting a commissioner who has the stones to totally reform the organisation.

The Government and PSC would do this country a great service by finding and appointing individuals who can achieve this.

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