The new commissioner must bat out his innings despite who's bowling


Wednesday, March 07, 2018

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A true batsman should in most of his strokes tell the truth about himself. — Nevil Cardus

In the game of cricket it has always been customary to accord more adulation to batsman than to bowlers. Batting is at the same time the most rewarding and most frustrating of the cricket disciplines. Rewarding, because when everything comes together you can score a big hundred and be the hero of your team. Frustrating, because you can, after standing in the hot sun fielding all day, be bowled the first ball for a golden duck.

So, how can you get more rewarding days? More days of seeing the ball well and piercing the off-side with pinpoint cover drives, clip the ball elegantly through the leg-side or brutally take on the spinner with slog-sweeps into row 14. Why do some batsmen score so many runs while you try everything you can and still do not feel satisfied with the number of runs you score in a season?

The 150-year-old Jamaica Constabulary Force has seen 29 batsmen come to the crease as commissioners of police. The longest to stay at the crease was Commissioner A E Kershaw (1904-1919). Since then few have come to the crease and spent the time to score big on crime and violence. In 2007, after serving two years as commissioner, Lucius Thomas informed the Police Service Commission (PSC) that he was stepping down. The Police Federation at the time was disappointed at the sudden announcement, but Lucius had had enough. Then came Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin, the retired army chief, who stepped up to the crease armed with years of experience running the Jamaica Defence Force. Both the public and private sector had great expectations for the respected army boss, but about six months in the job the former army boss was stonewalled by internal politics and a lack of will by the political directorate, who failed to provide what was necessary to support his goal of reducing crime and reining in corruption. It is no secret that the 'squaddies' squeezed out the serious no-nonsense strategist.

Next at the wicket was Owen Ellington, a 30-year veteran of the force who enlisted in 1980. Ellington had a measure of success. In 2011 he was named Man of the Year for his role in public service as head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF); and for the enhancement of citizen security, the reduction of crime, and the enforcement of ethics in the police force. However, in 2014, Ellington unexpectedly took up his bat and left the crease. His reason for leaving was based on the need to separate himself from the top brass of the force prior to the commencement of the infamous Tivoli Commission of Enquiry into the conduct of the security forces' operation in west Kingston. He also stated that sitting from the sidelines would allow the Independent Commission of Investigation ample space to conduct its investigation into allegations of alleged extrajudicial killings by a team of police in Clarendon.

With a PhD in criminal justice from Sam Houston State University in Texas, USA, Dr Carl Williams took his stance at the wicket, marking his crease with these words: “I want to assure the people of Jamaica that, under my leadership, the JCF will do everything within its power to respond to your concerns.” He continued marking out his batting line with confidence by declaring that he would ensure accountability at all levels in the JCF, and gave his commitment to act decisively to remove any members who choose the path of corruption while keeping the public fully informed on major developments within the force. Like Brian Lara at the wicket, ready to score big, the public felt Williams was the bright (yes, bright) man for the job. Much was expected but, after batting for less than three years, with a 20 per cent increase in crime in his first year, Dr Williams signalled to the umpires that he was retiring for personal reasons.

Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Novelette Grant was asked to be the nightwatchman. She had 90 days to show the PSC that she was capable of becoming the 29th commissioner of police since Major J H Prendeville stepped to the wicket in 1867 and batted for 11 long years. Somehow the selectors didn't think she was the person for the job — it is with voyeuristic curiosity that I wish to know the reasons Grant did not make the team. There were those who were convinced that she would have been the next commissioner, to the point of anticipating the celebration of the first female in Jamaica's history to hold the post — only to be stumped by the announcement from the minister of national security that George Fitzroy Quallo would be the new commissioner. Little was known about him, but he ran up to the wicket with a decent batting record. It was reported that Quallo had served as the deputy commissioner of police with responsibility for the territorial operations portfolio. Prior to that he led various divisions, including Area 4 between March 2012 and December 2015, during which there were three successive years of reduction in murders and major crimes. In 2009, he led the rebuilding of the JCF Armoury, implementing rigorous internal controls and strengthening accountability for firearms within the force. Between 2002 and 2006 he restructured the Manchester Police Division by utilising community policing principles as the major strategy resulting in a large reduction in all crime categories.

After a rough nine months at the wicket Quallo came under severe pressures; he was beginning to miss simple balls bowled by the minister of national security. He could not take it any longer, so he threw down his bat, stood at his crease, and was bowled out for failing to be assertive and courageous in the face of political and other pressures within the force. Word on the street is that senior management officers were pretending to be squaddies to ensure that Quallo failed.

ACP Clifford Blake was asked to be the nightwatchman in this instance. It is public knowledge that he applied for the top job and had been shortlisted. Blake padded up and launched his audition to impress the selectors that he was worthy of moving up to the top of the batting order. However, is it a little too late?

In an interview on Nationwide News Network Blake told Cliff Hughes that at a management retreat he chaired days after his acting appointment, all the senior members of the team admitted that they could do more in the fight against crime and had resolved to do more. Why this sudden revelation on the heels of Quallo's departure? All of a sudden the JCF has personnel in khakis deployed at strategic intersections with young recruits and other traffic officers to restore public order. I hear that this will be the new norm. The public welcomes the new initiative; however, as the man who had been in charge of operations, Blake will have to say to the selectors why the initiatives weren't implemented under the leadership of the former captain and team leader. I have done some soundings and I am getting from sources close to the ground that some of the squaddies are batting for Blake to become commissioner, but there are others who believe that his audition is little too late.

The new commissioner might very well be a batsman from another team. Whether he is from within or without the force he needs to be strong, fit and fearless in the face of pressure. He must approach the crease with a lot of credibility on his side, with a lot of charisma and an ability to be a unifying force. When he steps to the crease, he must be willing to settle down quickly and bat out his innings, despite who is bowling. We need a commissioner who has the strategic skills, the foresight, and the temperament to shake things up while committing to the reduction of crime and ensuring the safety and security of the nation.

Henry J Lewis is a lecturer at the University of Technology, Jamaica, School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Send comments to the Observer or

Editor's note: The above was submitted before announcement the new commissioner of police.




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