Cut out the 'lie culture' and corruption that contaminates the JCF, justice system

Al Miller

Sunday, February 11, 2018

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“Surely , it is now clear to everyone that sacrificing a commissioner of police every couple of years will never, and can never, solve the problems with crime, corruption and violence in Jamaica.” Sounds like something I wrote last week Sunday or any given Sunday I have written on our crime and violence issues, doesn't it? However, those are the words of former deputy commissioner of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Mark Shields, our Scotland Yard import of a few years ago.

He was writing in the Sunday Gleaner of February 4, 2018 under the headline 'Mark Shields' 10-point plan for next commissioner of police'. In his article, Shields gave a quick overview of some of the critical issues of the JCF, then presented his 10-point plan.

Shields' quote above and the points outlined in his article underscore my comment last week that whether former Police Commissioner George Quallo, as perceived by some, was lacking in personal toughness in approach, is not a relevant issue. The law actually being enforced is enough authority to cover any toughness Quallo may be lacking in his approach.

There are some who are making silly comparisons between Quallo's style and that of popular crime fighters Reneto Adams and Keith 'Trinity' Gardener in their time. Unfortunately, however, their styles also carry negatives that tend to produce future criminals because of the anger left by the perception that their methods were oppressive and unjust.

Mark Shields, in his 10-point plan, superbly outlined many of my own sentiments. He referenced clear, necessary action steps that are practical and doable without an increase in resources outside of the JCF's ability and that of the Government to gain and sustain. His plan focuses on the need to significantly reduce crime and increase the feeling of public safety.

He has honestly expressed — and I applaud him for doing so — the need to get officers from behind their desks and out on the road. This includes the comfortable and, in some cases, indolent senior officers who quite often avoid 'doing road', while sending their subordinates to do so. There are even allegations that some are able to collect a 'cess' from their subordinates who they have sent out on the road with specific instructions. Mark's plan harnesses even these officers with a view to replace them if they are resistant to 'doing road'. Although Shields' points are not new, if consistently applied they will be effective.

Root causes, please!

What I continue to posit for deep consideration is that these and current measures being presented by others are not complete solutions to crime, but merely steps to lead to a reduction in incidents while they are actively implemented. Both are essential in the process but will demand sustaining them as permanent features with all the associated costs. However, the vital solution approach to underpin and enhance Shields' 10-point plan is to tackle the root causes and attendant issues.

Shields' 10 points are excellent police combat strategies for reduction and containment in the face of the current realities. The overall Government strategies should rightly include Shields' police strategies but must go above and beyond to mobilise a nation to conquer the crime monster; not merely by suppression with an iron fist, but by transforming hearts, minds, systems, and structures with an arm of love. Only then can we create a new environment of national unity, harmony and peace.

The iron fist of national security must be accompanied by an arm of love that embraces the vital inputs of family, community, church, government agencies, and civil society. Only then will policing become a service that maintains stability and tracks and deals with the few deviant hearts who, even in the best circumstances, will rebel against law and order and embrace criminality.

Police aren't sociologists

Certainly we can achieve this transformation and this will allow police to do their work of serving and protecting, instead of solving deviant and criminal behaviour which is the job of family, church, education and government social agencies. For too long we have been asking and expecting the police to do what they were neither designed and trained to do, nor have the capacity to do. We expect them to be criminologists and sociologists, but that's the remit of others. Their job is to keep the peace; enforce discipline, law and order; and control deviant behaviour by apprehending criminals and bringing them to justice.

Therefore, solving crime is the job of family, the church and the Government through the inculcation of right moral attitudes, education, socialisation, economic stability, and opportunities. Any serious approach to solving crime requires political and societal will to transform or remove the systems and structures that breed and support the development of deviant behaviour that leads to criminal behaviour.

Those systems and structures include the tribal and political divisions, the garrisonisation, the donmanship culture, the injustice in varying expressions, the poverty and neglect of people and communities that cry out for strategic attention. These are man-made problems! The police 'nuh business inna dis'; except where they join in to exacerbate the problem.

Whoever the minister of national security or police commissioner may be matters not in producing lasting and significant results unless these ills that I have mentioned are transformed.

The power of fear

There are some short-sighted human rights groups who speak from selective, unsubstantiated and unrealistic research, who say that fear of harsh justice, such as capital punishment, is not a deterrent to criminals. Fear is the single greatest human emotion that affects behaviour. People are most often driven by fear in its various forms and expressions.

The enforcement of law and order must carry the element of fear. Capital punishment only appears as if it's not a deterrent in our society and a few others because the chance of being caught and convicted is low. When consequences are sure and swift, it works like a charm.

I am an unapologetic a supporter of capital punishment as a principle because it is the teaching of scripture, not by inference, but directly from the wisdom of the creator, the eternal God himself. The Holy Bible records these words in Genesis 9: 6 — Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made He man.

There was a time I objected to capital punishment on the grounds that it was inhumane. I have, over time, become more knowledgeable and wiser; understanding more of God's wisdom and His imperative to establish and affirm justice and the value and sanctity of human life. Nothing can equate to the value of human life. Therefore, when a life is maliciously taken, only life for a life can ensure that such deviant behaviour is not embraced as the norm, as we find happening in Jamaica, land we love. Life is sacred, and the only way for the State to drive that point home, especially to those given to deliberate and premeditated murder, is through capital punishment.

However, I cannot strongly advocate for capital punishment in our nation because of the high level of corruption and injustice in our police force along with systemic weaknesses in our justice system. The risk of the innocent being executed is far too high.

Fix values and family

Let's remind ourselves that the law is not for the law-abiding. Law is for the lawless who have lost their sense of self-governance. We are all aware that there are a number of circumstantial and societal negatives that help shape or push a child toward lawless behaviour: absence of a positive and strong father figure, abject poverty coupled with hopelessness and injustice, a sense of oppression by agencies that should protect instead of oppress, and the embrace of destructive values and attitudes are a few that come to mind. On the other hand, good family life, the presence of fathers, the inculcation of defined moral values and correct attitudes provide in children the internal discipline of self-governance. Absence of same increases the need for greater external governance by way of more policing, more laws, a greater demand on the system, and a greater need for resources from the public purse for security and justice. Bear in mind that these are funds that could be better used to support family life development, education, health, welfare, and other socio-economic issues.

When a society allows the deterioration of family life, and also neglects the deliberate teaching of values as central to educational development, it is laying the bed for social ills such as crime and violence. Prolonged neglect ensures the need for higher budget allocations to deal with public safety and security.

The social fabric of a nation is a reflection of the spiritual and moral fabric that governs the society. Therefore, any good political leader will be careful and diligent to ensure that the spiritual and moral fibre of his constituency is established and remains intact, as these are necessary for right progress and true prosperity.

The deterioration of our values is also seen in the JCF where it has resulted in a culture of lies that is systemic — running from top to bottom, sideways, and around. We can hardly trust the testimony of the police on any incident reported by them. We cannot trust their statistics or the numbers reported so much that even when they do tell the truth, it is believed to be a lie. There are many good officers who get caught in the web of the 'lie culture' and their truth gets thrown in the trough of lies and becomes indistinguishable from the lies and therefore perceived also as lies.

Then because the police force is the primary source of information to the justice system, it too gets caught up and adopts the lies and treats them as truth. The result of this is that the justice system is no longer perceived to be just or interested in justice, but rather only in what is legal. Justice needs truth as the platform on which to thrive. No truth, no justice. The lie culture of the police contaminates the justice system, driving many citizens to seek their own justice — a dangerous practice.

Lie culture must change

Let me hasten to say that I am not giving hearsay or guessing, although many leaders and citizens find it hard to accept and would even want to suggest that I do not know what I am talking about. I have, for years, had to contend regularly with the police lie culture and its effects. Sadly, successive governments have either ignored or accepted the state of affairs.

In addition, I can speak without fear of contradiction as I have directly experienced it myself from top to bottom and watched it play out in corrupting the justice system to the detriment of hundreds. This culture must be confronted and challenged in an honest way to restore credibility to the security forces and justice system of our nation.

I have often had to ponder the question that if I am well known as a Christian and pastor to the players in the system, and they felt no compunction to fabricate stories and tell lies about me, how much worse it must be for the average youth in the inner city. The lying, corrupt culture of our JCF and the justice system must be changed.

To this end, if former police commissioner, George Quallo, was found to bring integrity to his office, and to the force by extension, then he should not have been allowed or forced to depart at this time. The principle of truth as a commitment is vital and must be applied abundantly to break the lie culture that contaminates the JCF.

Reform of our justice system is part of the necessary change for the new Jamaica we all want to see. The welcoming of a new chief justice is very timely, the furore surrounding his 'acting' appointment notwithstanding. A new chief justice must commit also to the search for truth as the basis of justice. Truth should never be dethroned or sidelined in the pursuit of legal niceties, but should be the reason for legal determinations to produce the highest justice.

It appears to me, through careful observation, that few in the legal system are committed to the principle of justice as the ultimate pursuit. Both defence and prosecutors are more interested in legal wranglings to win cases than ensuring justice. The judges are the only ones who seem to want justice and, unfortunately, many of them are also caught in the wave of what is legal more than what is just.

I am reminded of an ancient adage that says, “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.” (Proverbs 21:15) It is therefore my humble opinion that everyone in the legal system should be committed to justice as the central and primary end to be achieved. Perhaps our lawyers have been somehow misled to think that only judges should be concerned with justice. But if justice and truth are to be ours forever, we all must be concerned. So let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5: 24)

Rev Al Miller is pastor of Fellowship Tabernacle. Send comments to the Observer or

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