Welsh mess 'hurt' the Force — Chang

Welsh mess 'hurt' the Force — Chang

BY HG HELPS
Editor-at-Large
helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, September 01, 2019

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THE senior policy man at the Ministry of National Security has admitted that the messy situation, which involved Assistant Commissioner of Police Bishop Dr Gary Welsh making unilateral decisions in respect of road traffic changes last week, has worked against the image of the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang suggested to the Jamaica Observer in an interview that the force's collective head might have been lowered in shame after the theatrics of Bishop Welsh, who publicly stated changes to the way that the force deals with traffic infractions, only for the High Command of the constabulary to counter the suggestions — a move which resulted in the reassignment of Bishop Welsh to the commissioner's office to toss around clips and paper last Wednesday.

Asked if the announcements made by Bishop Welsh, which ran contrary to force policy, had damaged the constabulary's image, Dr Chang said that it had “hurt” the force.

“It has also reflected badly on the Government, but I have every confidence in the current commissioner. He acted very decisively and that's his style, and his approach to changes in the police force is genuine. As the population sees the benefit of the changes and reap the fruits of that work, then there will be trust and confidence from the wider public,” Dr Chang stated of the efforts of Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson.

“It was an unfortunate thing. I know the gentleman,” Dr Chang continued to describe the situation with Bishop Welsh. “It was well intentioned but it just … it should not have happened. I don't have an explanation for it, and the commissioner took corrective action,” Dr Chang went on, suggesting that he expects better things from Welsh's successor, Dr Kevin Blake, a technology specialist and relative of retired police commissioner, Owen Ellington.

“I expect the new commander to do a good job. He is from a background of planning, so he can put together the PSTB (Public Safety and Traffic Branch). He is a bright, capable, professional police officer and once he applies himself to something, I expect results.”

The saga began the previous week when it emerged on social media that Bishop Welsh had pardoned a motorist who was seen on videotape driving a Mercedes Benz in what was described as a dangerous, careless and reckless fashion in the Dunrobin Avenue area of St Andrew.

Bishop Welsh, a former constabulary force chaplain, in a public relations showcase, eked out a dose of oral apology from the man who is said to be the owner of the vehicle, and gave him the proverbial slap on the wrist with a verbal warning that he should do better next time, which irritated sections of the Jamaican landscape based on utterances in mainstream and social media, and drew harsh criticism from even his peers.

He followed that with utterances last Tuesday about changes in the road traffic policy of the force, that the extended leadership of the constabulary was ignorant of, which then resulted in him being relinquished of his duties as operational head of the PSTB.

“What we saw in that video was crazy. Public order in Jamaica and organised crime are two things holding back the country. There are those who think they can do things and there are no consequences. The correcting of the ticketing system is part of what we are getting at — that you face the consequences to breach the law, whether you are rich or poor. You have to have consequences.

“The commissioner has made some quick changes, Dr Chang said, but bear in mind that he (Welsh) had only been there for about a month. He was brought in as a man with operations background to put some more energy in the system. It's just that there was too much energy.”

“There is still a mentality in Jamaica to give a man a break. The big man pays for a break, but the little man deserves a break because he is poor and you end up with disorder. We have to just reorient the force and the formation of public safety to deal with the law. All are equal, all are treated equally and fairly and with respect. That's part of the retraining and development that the commissioner is leading in the force,” said the man who is believed to be the closest minister to Prime Minister Andrew Holness in the Cabinet.

Dr Chang said that the cleaning up of the existing system of issuing traffic tickets was part and parcel of the overall improvement that the system would represent in future.

“Coming on stream with a more efficient ticket management system, I expect we will have good results. The message that has to go out is that we treat everybody equally and with respect. So Mr Big Man, yes sir, yes sir, you breached the Act, so you have to pay your fines. We need to behave appropriately on the roads.

“Next week is a crucial week and I expect that despite the unfortunate events surrounding the last commander, we will see some results in the back-to-school month this month, as the police up their tempo and we begin to handle the system more efficiently.

“Technology gives us a chance to do it much better, which is why we are moving in that direction, but all of that takes a little time … it's not long term. The build-out of surveillance system requires some training … some investment.

“There is no reason, for example, why a policeman should be writing a ticket in a receipt book, or hardcover book. It's easy to get an instrument to write a warrant in, and if you do it that way, given the extent of our communication system, most places have access to wireless communication, almost 100 per cent now. So you can use an instrument like a phone, use it to write a ticket, you can monitor a GPS position, you can monitor speed and you can monitor decibel levels and begin to manage noise in an objective way,” Dr Chang stated.


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