Columns

Balderdash?! Or brilliant policing?

AL MILLER

Sunday, August 25, 2019

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The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes. — William Shakespeare

The editors of this newspaper had an editorial on Thursday, August 22, 2019 titled ACP Welsh's balderdash! It was in reference to the recent saga that began with a video of a driver doing doughnuts in his Mercedes-Benz and ended with a media event at the very spot that his driving infraction took place. I must take umbrage with that editorial.

The current, simple meaning of the word balderdash is nonsense. However, Dictionary.com identifies its 1590s etymology to mean “a jumbled mix of liquors (milk and beer, beer and wine)”. From there it morphed by the 1670s to a “senseless jumble of words”. Three hundred-plus years later it simply means nonsense. In applying the current meaning of balderdash to ACP's actions, the Jamaica Observer editorial invoked the original meaning on their editorial. It was indeed a well-written senseless jumble of words.

They declared the ACP's motive or reason for declining to prosecute the offending driver was an attempt to “get some amount of positive public relations for himself and the police force…” The editorial went on to righteously expound that, “The silly stunt was not only dangerous to the driver and his passenger...but could have resulted in injury, and possibly worse, to other motorists and pedestrians.

“The man claiming to be the driver of the car, Mr Dennis Dietrih, issued a puerile apology at a news event organised by the police at the intersection.”

There are two underlying issues here that the editorial deliberately or inadvertently denigrates, and it should be mindful not to do so. The first is the issue of positive public relations. Whether that was one of ACP Welsh's motives, I cannot say. What I can say is that the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) needs as much positive public relations as possible. Any attempt to get some good public relations should not be discouraged.

Many of our citizens too often see the heavy-handed side of the police force. They view the police as terrorisers, brow beaters, and oppressors. The ACP's actions did indeed show the police in a better light. And that's how they ought to be all the time as they protect and serve us.

The second issue is the issue of leniency. ACP Welsh showed that he and his officers of the law need not always employ punitive measures. His choice of 'punishment' indicated that JCF officers can actually employ lenient, merciful, discretionary measures without ignoring the offence.

I am reminded of a powerful and oft ignored passage of scripture, “It is the goodness of God that causes repentance.”

Mercy, William Sheakspeare declared in his Merchant of Venice, Act 4 Scene 1, is “...an attribute to God Himself; and earthly power doth then show likest God's when mercy seasons justice”.

I don't mean to be too instructive of the editors who crafted their balderdash article against ACP Welsh. However, it would be remiss of me if I did not take the time to remind them that punitive measures are only needed when the issue of bearing consequence is more important than transforming behaviour. The value of mercy is always more powerful in the process of transformation.

So, dear Editor et al, I hope you're not saying that the JCF always has to be punitive, for it is not always the best method for solving problems or achieving justice. I believe the ACP should be applauded by opinion leaders, like newspaper editors and pastors, who can more easily discern the higher principle or higher road ACP Welsh has taken in this saga. Brilliant move, ACP! Don't allow naysayers to discourage you. It is the best display of public wisdom we have seen in a long time. An apology humbles the offender and gives him or her the opportunity to let people know that he or she is sorry for what they did and will not repeat it.

Then there is another issue in this saga — although not mentioned in the editorial — that is doing the rounds among the social media 'journalists'. That being the issue of the colour of the offender's skin and address. Many seem to be claiming that had the offender been a few shades darker, with an inner-city address, he would not have escaped punitive measures. Now that's some more balderdash!

A few minutes on the road any given day will reveal the fallacy of that thinking. Many of us can testify to being 'bad driven' by dark-skinned, inner-city address taxi drivers; with some of the infractions taking place in front of constabulary officers, yet no actual punishment is meted out. The colour card is absolute balderdash!

Editor, thanks for not pursuing that angle.

Two final issues: The editorial is at fault for not giving credence to ACP Welsh's seniority. His choice of punishment to fit the crime should not be denigrated. He is not a rookie or greenhorn in the constabulary. His years of experience should count for something.

Then, last but not least, the editorial ends with with some absurd conclusions:

“So, by shaking the hand of this confessed reckless driver and giving him a pat on the back, ACP Welsh is basically telling other motorists that the Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch (PSTEB) is not committed to improving social order in public spaces and ensuring compliance with the Road Traffic Act.

“The law, we must now assume, can be disregarded with impunity, and the sheer indiscipline and lunacy that are evident on the streets daily must be accepted as the norm.

“Based on ACP Welsh's argument in this case, maybe, just maybe, the Government should discard its programme of installing closed-circuit television cameras on the streets.”

All three issuess above are balderdash, balderdash, balderdash!

Therefore, Editor, though justice be thy plea, consider this: That in the course of justice none of us should see salvation. We do pray for mercy, and that same prayer doth teach us all to render the deeds of mercy.

Rev Al Miller is pastor of Fellowship Tabernacle. Send comments to the Observer or pastormilleroffice@gmail.com.


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