Columns

Words of a legend

Jason
McKay

Sunday, August 11, 2019

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MANY years ago there was a ring of gangsters who were abducting women from sidewalks around St Andrew and gang-raping them. After some trial and error and a lot of luck the police were fortunate to make arrests, and eventually gain convictions.

I was involved in the initial investigations that led to the capture of two of the men, and a day or two later was summoned to the offices of the Flying Squad by Superintendent Cornwall “Bigga” Ford and asked to explain the circumstances that led to the arrests.

I explained what had been done and at the end of it he said the words: “Good work.”

I cannot explain the impact that those words had on me as a young man and a professional in the world of crime fighting. I was motivated, elated and determined to do all that was necessary to hear those words again. It was not his rank that had the impact, it was because I was being complimented by a legend.

The career of this particular officer is one that has yet to be completely documented and understood. He was a team member and often the leader in every super case in the country for decades. He was a blend of street crime fighter and investigator. This made him comparable to very few then, and almost none today, as investigators are rarely operators in keeping with the modern-day division of labour for constabulary forces worldwide, including Jamaica.

However, had this incredible officer been operating as a young cop in this era he would likely never have passed the rank of corporal, and would never have been in a position to contribute as he did or inspire me and many others to the degree that he did, based on our current system of destroying police officers who are engaged in combat with gunmen.

Motivating men who are expected to risk their lives in combat is a peculiar dynamic, significantly assisted when led by men who are actually combatants themselves and have faced similar challenges when they were in like circumstances.

However, there is an atmosphere in this country which appears to suggest that the thousands of men who are members of gangs who are able to commit about 1,400 murders a year can be defeated without combat.

As ridiculous as this sounds, have a conversation with decision-makers in Government from a variety of agencies and you will notice a tongue-in-cheek vibe when discussing police in combat. You will get a strong feeling that they believe it can be avoided.

Is it only me who sees this as totally, God Almighty ridiculous?

If gangsters are capable of killing normal Jamaicans, like they do, how in the hell is law enforcement going to engage them without combat?

These gangs produce murder rates in keeping with the top five on planet Earth. This happens to be the only planet that humans occupy, so who is the genius behind this line of thought?

Considering what I am saying, this would mean that any cop who emulates a Cornwall Ford, a Reneto Adams, a Derrick “Cowboy” Knight, or an Isaiah Laing is doomed to being supervised by men who choose not to engage. This is crazy!

There is no group of fighting men who can operate demotivated. Courage is not an inbred characteristic; it has to be cultivated. Lawmen cannot be expected to be courageous in challenging gangs that kill with guns like the ones here do, but fear the civilian with a laptop.

To be frank, I have never met a policeman who fears gunmen. He fears the 'system'.

This current approach to law enforcement began in 1993 when Colonel Trevor MacMillan was selected to lead the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). Major crime fighters were immediately sidelined or fired. The Suppression of Crime Act was subsequently repealed and the gradual stripping, demotivating and destruction of the front line police began in earnest, and continues to this day.

Well known human rights activists sit or have sat on the Police Service Commission. This body has the power to divert or subvert police officers' careers. What are they doing serving on these bodies?

I have not seen one of them standing or prone with a rifle in their hand. They do not have any concept of what they are evaluating.

Are we going to use seasoned combatants to determine promotions at the Bank of Jamaica? No, we are not, because the police should not be making decisions relevant to the Government's finances. By extension, this should be the approach to passing judgement on police operations and elevation. Keep it in the hands of people who have knowledge of the environment, challenges and required strategies.

A decision to avoid combat with a group bent on combat is a decision to bow to their domination.

I hope that 40 years from now, when we are a failed State and have experienced foreign occupation, like Rwanda and South Sudan, I will not be quoted as having predicted where we were going and that no one took heed.

Get the activists out of positions where they can determine police policy and elevation, or give them a rifle and send them out to do the job themselves.

Jason McKay is a criminologist. back: jasonamckay@gmail.com


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