THE coming to Jamaica of police officers from the United Kingdom to bolster the island’s constabulary was a waste of time, retired senior law enforcer Reneto Adams has said.
Adams, who left the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) in July 2008 after over 41 years’ service, said that the British officers, collectively, did not impact the force in a positive way, and many of the recommendations that the foreigners made for improvement of the organisation were already suggested by local police but were not acted upon by authorities.
“I don’t think that the British have made an impact,” Adams told the Jamaica Observer in an interview. “My impression is that they have not, in any significant way, improved us from the level they came and saw us psychologically. Everything they came and offered was already conceptualised by us. It’s only because we were not getting the support from government to implement it why things did not work.
“Nobody supported us to get the equipment and maybe we did not have enough people who were sufficiently trained, but we asked to be trained. When we asked, we heard that the authorities did not have any money, but when the British came, they gave them everything,” Adams said.
Still Adams is of the view that some of the expatriate crime fighters didn’t do all that bad.
“I must confess that (Justin) Felice (assistant commissioner) tried his best. (Les) Green (former assistant commissioner) is a very honourable man and a gentleman and he did a lot,” Adams said.
“I am a nationalist, and I never liked the idea when they went and brought back our Colonial masters here to oversee and overshadow what we were trying to do as an independent nation. It would have been better if they had gone to America or elsewhere. I was not averse to people coming to help us to do what we were doing better, and to train us,” the colourful former crime fighter said.
Ironically, Adams, who joined the JCF in 1967 when he was 18 year old, regards a white Englishman — A Gordon Langdon — as the best commissioner that he had served under during his time in the constabulary.
Langdon, the JCF’s second commissioner since Independence in 1962, headed the force from 1964 to 1970.
“When I joined the force there was honesty and integrity, no corruption. Langdon was one of those who looked on (former political leaders) Sir Alexander Bustamante, Norman Manley and Michael Manley and told them that he would not bend the police force to suit any politician,” said Adams.
“He stood up for his men. He had a high level of discipline and integrity. It was during his time when everybody wanted to join the force and he got some good people at the time,” Adams said.
Jamaican commissioners William ‘Bill’ Bowes, the sixth, who ran the force from 1980 to 1982, and Herman Ricketts, the eighth, who was in charge between 1984 and 1991, also came in for credit from Adams.
“Bowes fought crime at a tough time when you had tough criminals, but he made sure that he directed the police to be prudent and observe the law and the constitution in the execution of their duties,” Adams argued.
“Ricketts came at the time when corruption had crept into the police force and he had a strong hand on it. He made sure that he set the right example. He was a very honest man.
“Unfortunately, every commissioner since Mr Ricketts was chosen with political influence in mind. They may not all have been partisan, but politics played a hand in some selections,” he claimed.
He described one of the commissioners under whom he served as weak and ineffective. “He was a man who didn’t understand that he was the commissioner of police and he could not be the deputy or the assistant, or the senior superintendent,” said Adams.
“I was popular, but there was envy and jealousy. When you are in charge and your organisation is doing good, it reflects on you… As a person, he was not bad, he was just badly influenced, some was external and some was his own creation,” Adams said.
Adams now operates his own security firm — Adams Security Management Unit—that specialises in securing construction sites and protecting them from extortionists, among other things. He also does farming, including pig rearing, and operates a bar and grocery store at his birthplace Bacon, near Treasure Beach in South West St Elizabeth.
Although he has left the JCF, he still regards it as an organisation of honour, where, according to him, you learn everything.
Having served 11 police commissioners and eight prime ministers, and receiving over 1,000 commendations including the United Nations peace medal, the medal of honour for meritorious service, the medal of honour for gallantry, a marksman’s medal with two stars and the centenary medal, Adams still reflects on what could have been had he been appointed commissioner of police when he applied for the job in 2007.
“If they had given me commissioner of police, a lot of the top men and women would not work with me,” he said. Many of them never had the interest of the job at heart. They were too involved in politics, petty and trivial things as they relate to the job culture — the internal politics.
“Instead of working, they would sit in their offices and carry news and gossip. I was going to put senior officers on the street, because my philosophy is that crime does not take place in a superintendent’s office. It takes place on the street. I told them that if I were appointed commissioner of police, I would have been the first commissioner to roam the street,” he said.
“But they never wanted me. They believed in the ceremonial commissioner who would sit in office and deal with files and listen to news, instead of taking the interest of the people of the country at heart. Some of them are also afraid of politicians, big men and rich men,” he charged.
One of the things he said that denied former army head, Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin from gaining more success as police commissioner, was that he didn’t move certain top-rank officers from the hierarchy.
“When Lewin came I sat him down and told him that the organisation was such that if he did not abide by some of the observations I made to him, he would not last long, and it happened,” Adams said.
“I told him to appoint whom he felt should be his deputies and his assistants and so on, in whom he would have confidence and could trust. You cannot work with people who were there and, according to the society, the Police Service Commission and the Government, were not performing well. The force will go to rags. If you come in and work with the same hierarchy, you are not going to reach anywhere,” Adams said.
“They called me a loose cannon because I did my job, but even now the Jamaican people are calling on me,” Adams stated.