Paying the police is a good crime plan
Members of the police force hold placards as they demonstrate outside the Supreme Court building indowntown Kingston over the non-payment of overtime monies owed to them.(Photos: Garfield Robinson)

Crime continues to be a most pressing concern for the Jamaican people. Jamaicans locally and in the Diaspora have been promoting the view that crime and the fear of it remains our most pressing issue. For many, it seems the concerns for COVID-19 pale in comparison to those associated with crime.

Conversations at every level feature strategies to address this monster that has bothered us for too long. Even those without a solution critique the efforts of those of us who actively engage in policing.

I have for some time been of the view that crime is not a police problem, law enforcement is. This is premised on the fact that crime flows from social issues and the main mandate of any police organisation is law enforcement. It is not lost on me, however, as a senior and astute policeman, as I have been credited, that our role extends beyond enforcement. Our duties are legislated in the Constabulary Force Act. Section 13 features prominently the detection of crime as one of our duties. A simple Google search will reveal that detection is the action or process of identifying the presence of something concealed.

It therefore follows that detection of crime is a part of crime solving and crime control. Our other duties, expanded in the legislation, functions to support law enforcement and the maintenance of law and order. Crime-fighting strategies within high crime environment, such as the one in which we operate, requires extraordinary efforts that no legislation or theory can adequately address.

History has recorded some prominent police officers who made a name for themselves as fearless crime-fighters. A few earned public notoriety, but the majority are revered internally as men and women who are fearless. Methods aside, what all these officers had in common was the will to go above and beyond their call of duty to apprehend criminals.

Over the years, the treatment of police officers by successive governments have dimmed so many lights and has done much to change the fight within our officers. While we have come a far way through the strategic work that we have been doing, these lights can be reawakened by the powers that be with a simple action.

One of the main fallacies on which the Government operates is that all people who work for the Government are equal and should be given a generic salary package. This thinking is absent of sensitivity to the issues faced, especially by the police.

As a police force we have demonstrated time and time again that our efforts can reduce crime.

Some of my colleagues, who, for example, were motivated to tactically move through the remote hills of Jamaica – sleep-deprived but unaffected by fatigue – in order to capture criminals, now have reason to ask: Why should we continue? After all, we are only paid for 40 hours per week.

Our crime problem is just too great for police efforts to be impeded by the amount of time the Government can afford.

Our fellow Jamaicans have no difficulty paying for their safety and only the unwillingness of Government stands between us and the renumeration we have worked so hard for.

As the first claimant in the matter before the court, I am flabbergasted that we are going to trial when the Government knows very well that they do not have a winnable case. This is, simply put, a waste of the courts time and our tax dollar. Learned counsel on both sides could better spend their time in service to other matters.

Though I referenced our salary package earlier, this matter before the court should not be confused with the four per cent offer. That's an entirely different matter for another time, but it also reflects an unwillingness to invest in valuable human capital to ensure the safety of the Jamaican people.

A most viable crime plan is to ensure that police officers are so motivated that their efforts are not interrupted by normal and everyday human considerations. These include, but not limited to, unpaid bills, the inability to purchase petrol, and the absence of food in the cupboard to satisfy a hungry family.

Value our officers so much that hands placed on jaws signifying a state of worry can be used to arrest offenders; bodies weakened by the absence of proper nutrients can stand even in the elements to peruse criminals wherever they are; and mouths drooling from hunger can be used to give proper commands.

My arguments here are not to suggest that a settlement in this matter will solve all our economic issues. But so much more than the money is the confidence that our employers' actions can inspire.

Pay us our money and engage us in a proper heads of agreement on salary and benefits and hold us accountable for our human efforts. I guarantee you that hours will not be measured in money but by the successes we are able to celebrate.

We are doing so much to create a force for good, let our efforts not be overshadowed by the contentious issue of money.

Patrae Rowe is a detective inspector of police and a former chairman of the Jamaica Police Federation. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or patrearowe@hotmail.com.

Police officers watch from the sidelines as their colleagues protestoutside the Supreme Court building recently.
Patrae Rowe
Patrae Rowe

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