The new MP and the new commissioner

Al Miller

Sunday, March 11, 2018

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The head learns new things, but the heart forever practices old experiences. — Henry Ward Beecher

The 30th commissioner of police in 150 years of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has been appointed. He is Major General Antony Bertram Anderson. The types of commendations that are now being heaped upon the new commissioner are not dissimilar to those that were forthcoming from the same quarters concerning the last commissioner when he was appointed. What makes this one any different?

I know he comes to the post highly educated, trained and decorated. However, as I have contended before, one man cannot easily make a difference in our security and justice systems if the key actors and players are not willing to embrace the changes the new commissioner may want to make.

The circumstances certainly have not changed. We are giving him the same basket to carry water or, in the words of the proverb, “One finga cyaan pick lice.”

The stream of past commissioners, both career police officers and military men, testifies to the continued false hope that we put in an idea of finding the right one to fix not only crime but all the problems in the JCF. When will we learn and stop repeating the same old methods of tried and proven failure?

Time for real change!

If there is no commitment to radical change in the culture of the force to implement many of the recommendations of the various reports and studies that have been done, then we are wasting our time. It is time to go after the real perpetrators of crime, which are not the expendable guys on the streets but those in ivory towers, law offices, business offices and on political platforms. If we don't get to those folks, then it is all another exercise in futility.

The culture of the police cannot easily be changed by one man at the top. At a minimum, a new team at the top committed to common vision is required. The new commissioner needs those around him to support his vision. More starkly, the new commissioner will accomplish nothing new if nothing new is done. He must be allowed to select his top leadership team. The Police Service Commission must be prepared to give him that liberty from the get-go.

The minister can't do it — the cry will be interference. The prime minister cannot do it — the cry will be, “It's not his prerogative!” If the Police Service Commission fails to do so, what will be their reason: The status quo doesn't allow?

Who can make the difference? Nobody? I wish I could get Mr Nobody to find somebody able to boldly take the necessary decision to do what works.

The Jamaican people want results now! The Jamaican people are impatient for real solutions to the continuing crime problem. Too many of us are dying and no one seems willing to do what it will take for real change.

Please, Police Service Commission; please, new-era Prime Minister, get serious about allowing a commissioner the latitude to be effective. Here are four strategies I believe would help Commissioner Anderson do his job for the benefit of Jamaica.

1) Give him free rein to appoint his own team of senior offices without fear or favour, whether form current stock or new people. We know that there are political obstacles that would have to be removed, but for the sake of our nation make it different this time.

2) Assist him in setting up a unique JCF unit charged with linking gun users to gun providers with a special firearms Act passed to allow the gun provider to be charged with the same offences brought against the gun user.

3) Allow him free rein to purge the corrupt and incompetents from the JCF where they exist and replace them with competent individuals, through promotion of competent current officers who have been marginalised. Allow him to even draft personnel from wherever, including civil society, to fill slots.4) Give him a mandate to implement the JCF reform recommendations from both internal and external reports.

Commissioner Anderson must succeed where others failed in rebranding and re-culturing our police force. I know for some this may seem far-fetched, but I am reminded of the words of Peter Drucker, American educator and management consultant: If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.

Nigel Clarke, black royalty

Speaking of old and new, we have a new parliamentarian, Dr Nigel Clarke. Some have described him as British-esque, Oxfordian, Black Royal. Wasn't he in Black Panther?

What new will he bring to the table? Or will it be the same ole, same ole? The people of St Andrew North Western are among those impatient for real solutions to the continuing crime problem and underserved communities.

Fellowship Tabernacle Kingston is located in St Andrew North Western, and daily I am made aware of the issues in the constituency; issues such as the rise in hold-ups, car thefts, break-ins, murders, and informal housing settlements; as well as the need for training and wealth-creation opportunities for the youth in the depressed communities.

Set a new standard, Doc!

Dr Clarke has the opportunity to set a new standard of new-era, new Jamaican representation. I suggest he should build on the foundation inherited from Derrick Smith and add value to that legacy by treating the constituents like royalty.

'Every citizen a first-class citizen' should be Dr Nigel's goal and that of every other Member of Parliament (MP).

We need a shift in our understanding of how the MP should relate to the people and represent them. MPs are there to serve the needs of the constituency, not to lord it over them and act as patrons doling out political largesse (royal word for what the other party would call scarce benefits).

You can make a transforming difference, Dr Nigel. Here is how:

1) Meet regularly with the citizens and listen to their concerns and needs. Share information on legislation and policies to be tabled to get their opinions with a view to represent them in Parliament and to vote accordingly.

2) Develop a Constituency Improvement and Implementation Plan based on this information gathering and needs assessment.

3) Create mindset-change forum and activities aimed at impacting the values and attitudes of our youth.

It is incumbent on the newly installed MP, Dr Nigel Clarke to inform himself about the state of his constituency and to represent the concerns of his constituents, instead of just toeing the party line. This is the recommended approach all parliamentarians should embrace.

The new Jamaica we all desire is not that far out of our reach. However, it will take bold and decisive leadership with new thinking to get us there. I hope both the new commissioner and the new MP are of this genre.

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




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