The solution is greater than Sergeant Rowe's recommendation

Editorial

The solution is greater than Sergeant Rowe's recommendation

Monday, July 20, 2020

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Chairman of the Jamaica Police Federation, Sergeant Patrae Rowe's call for a stronger, “painful” deterrent to counter those who attack the police is understandable.

Also, Mr Rowe, who was addressing a thanksgiving service for the life of Detective Corporal Dane Biggs, is correct to believe that an attack on the police should be treated as an attack on the State.

Readers will recall that, as a result of that particularly vicious gun attack on policemen last month, Constable Decardo Hylton and Superintendent Leon Clunis also died.

However, we think it important to say that harsher punishment than now exists may well fail in terms of deterring the desperados and lunatics who choose to attack and trade bullets with the security forces.

Far more effective, we think, would be a concerted, single-minded drive by well-led Jamaicans to back the security forces to the hilt.

Beyond the obvious need for material support, there has to be support for the security forces in terms of knowledge-sharing at the community level.

A culture change is needed to get ordinary people to realise that to be “an informer” is to be a good citizen and a life saver.

That won't come easy. It requires community leaders, who command respect, to show the way; and for the police themselves to gain the respect, trust, and admiration from those they serve by dint of their actions and example.

Ideally, the zones of special operations (ZOSO) should provide fertile ground for the nurturing of such behaviour change.

At the material level, Jamaica's security forces need many more cars, more and better protective equipment, better facilities at their places of work, and crucially much-improved remuneration to even begin to feel that they are properly appreciated by their country.

That's necessary to lift efficiency and morale of the men and women who face criminals on a daily basis.

Up to early this year this newspaper was starting to see the real possibility of an improving economy providing an ever-expanding programme of improvement not just for police and soldiers, but for all our essential public sector personnel, including health workers and teachers.

Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has undermined those hopes and dreams.

Though Jamaicans give thanks that up to now there have only been 10 COVID-19-related deaths and that the rate of contagion remains low, the economy has been devastated.

The national budget has been dismantled and Government's fiscal rules suspended in order to deal with the consequences of job losses, business closures, et al.

And, while the Government is tentatively reopening the life-saving tourism sector on a phased basis, the rampage of the virus in Jamaica's largest visitor source, the United States, means a very hard road ahead.

All indications are that it will take years before Jamaica gets back to pre-COVID-19 numbers for tourism.

Yet, for all that, creative ways must be found to ensure that security force personnel — who put their lives on the line in service of their country — and others in the public sector essential services get some degree of material satisfaction for their sacrifice.

That has to be a consideration for Jamaica's two major political parties as they seek to woo voters in parliamentary elections, now due in less than a year.


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