Lewin invites public’s view on his proposal to close some police stations
Police Commissioner Hardley Lewin says his suggestion to close some police stations in order to place more cops on the streets will require a number of accompanying measures and would not be implemented until after a pilot, or “proof of concept” has run its course and proven that the strategy is effective.
Lewin, in an interview with the Observer last Friday, also admitted that while he had not yet done detailed work on the proposal – having been in office for only two weeks – he would welcome public debate on the issue.
“I believe we need the widest possible discussion, because we are not the repository of all knowledge, and the smallest man out there can come up with some good ideas,” said Lewin.
The commissioner linked his invitation for public input on the proposal to his commitment to have frequent dialogue with Jamaicans, a move which he hoped would result in decisions not taking the public by surprise.
“One of the things I believe is, when you are contemplating issues that will affect people you need to communicate, and one of my platforms as commissioner of police will be constant communication from me personally, the internal communications within the force, and the force’s communication with the public to whom we provide this essential service,” said Commissioner Lewin.
“And I would expect from this communication that. there are some things that affect the public to which we invite their comments and their input,” he added. “I know I’ll get blows from it from time to time, but it won’t change my attitude of sharing information and letting the public know where my thinking is, so that if subsequent decisions are made they won’t come as any surprise.”
Lewin, in his first press conference as police commissioner on December 20 had said he would close some police stations in an effort to place more cops on the streets. He gave as an example six police stations – Mountain View, Rollington Town, Franklyn Town, Stadium, Vineyard Town, and Rockfort – within a five-mile radius in east Kingston, saying that there are too many cops guarding stations doing administrative duties, which are really eating up manpower.
Last Friday, he told the Observer that his reference to those police stations was merely for illustrative purposes.
“Nobody should feel that I am targeting that five-mile radius,” said Lewin. “I am not doing any such thing. No decision has been made.
“What people need to understand is that it is not a matter of closing a station – and I’ve seen many comments from the public, and that is fine. I welcome those comments, because they offer an avenue to open the discourse and for us to further explain what is behind the thinking because, first of all, not everybody is going to agree. The issue is really. a large number of police stations doesn’t mean more policing. The question is, will the police be more visible, in terms of numbers out there, in terms of frequency with which you see the police, will it increase policing or decrease policing? That’s the question that needs to be answered.”
Arguing that there are many dynamics to the proposal, Lewin assured that he would not, in a cavalier manner, close a police station.
“One would have to look very carefully at the particular area, look at the whole environment, look at what you would put in its stead to increase the number of police in that area,” he said. “Clearly one would have to have a proof of concept or a pilot study, as some call it, at some stage, because what you will see is more of the police in your face, up front, and not locked away in some obscure station somewhere where you don’t see the face of the police, you have to go to them. They will be there, very visible.”
The strategy, he said, would require accompanying measures such as increased mobility and the use of closed-circuit television to monitor public spaces, because the police cannot be everywhere.
“So it’s a whole package of things that will have to be put together, piloted, and once you’re fully satisfied, then you implement,” said Lewin.
“You have to work with citizens,” he added. “It may mean going into the communities at community meetings explaining all of these things, enlisting their support, because ultimately, they are customers, we are providing a service. They have to be comfortable with what we are doing.”
The plan, he acknowledged, was long-term. However, he said he would be anxious to do the proof of concept as quickly as possible because it doesn’t need a lot of resources.
The commissioner also said he was interested in having more retired police officers who could give good service, return to the constabulary, as there were already a number of them now working in specialised areas in the JCF.
“There are many policemen out there who have left in good standing, who have continued in good standing and who would be willing to come back to the force,” said Lewin. “That door is always open for anyone who has left the force. Of course, we’ll have to carefully review each application. All I’m saying is, to what extent can we bring some more? Some come readily to mind who, I am hoping, will be willing to come back and contribute.”