The Commissioner's reportSunday, April 18, 2021
I like reports. It is the one area of my service in the police force that I have had no conflict with my superiors. Work unreported is work not done.
So the commissioner has given a report that is reasonably thorough and includes facts that are not commonly known. The reality that these facts are not general knowledge demonstrates that the police force still needs a lesson in public relations.
This, however, is not new. It is the Jamaica Constabulary Force way and the Jamaica Defence Force culture. Both have a concept that dictates silence, discourages bragging and allows the truth to come out in the wash.
That is not public relations though, that is trial by ambush. It works well in a court of law, not so much in the court of public opinion.
The first little fact that had not been propagated in the public sphere is the 19 per cent reduction in murders from December 31, 2017 to December 31, 2020.
Now for a country that monitors murder stats like cricket scores, there is some confusion as to why this fact is not in the media. This is an incredible feat. To reduce murders from 1,647 to 1,323 is an accomplishment that should have been propagated.
Now, is it too high still? Yes, you're damn right it is, but do not take that reduction for granted. Had it increased by that margin or even stayed there at 1,647, we would be beating the police high command for dinner and the security minister.
The success of zones of special operations (ZOSOs) is another area that was highlighted that I think would surprise even the average police officer. You see, we all cuss based on what we think rather than what we know. Let us discuss.
Did you know that the ZOSO in St James brought about a 70 per cent reduction in murders in the year after its inception; and that the one in August Town resulted in a reduction of no shootings or murders for the 275 days after its introduction, versus 22 combined in the 275 days before it was implemented?
Denham Town's ZOSO resulted in a reduction of 144 murders and shootings to 95 before and after the periods under comparison. But I bet the average guy or cop thinks ZOSO has failed, this despite the reduction in the zones being way higher than reductions in the national average.
Another fact that hit me was the shortage of personnel required for the job of 7,117 police.
This is phenomenal. Can you imagine that? The shortage is larger than the nation's army.
It is a wonder that the country is not Haiti. Statistically, the force is over 37 per cent short of police personnel required to do the job.
It is a small miracle that the nation's security has not been plunged into anarchy. If our hospitals operated at a shortage of doctors like this we would have to close wards or even hospitals.
Two things need to be discussed at this point. Firstly, what needs to be done and secondly, why is this occurring?
Let us answer the second question first. This is a simplified version. The training facilities cannot produce police based on the syllabus and required time at a rate to close the gap created by retirement, resignation and death. The training period is about six months. Not an unreasonable time really. But you would need 10 police colleges operating at the same time to fill the need. You do not have that.
This is a crisis! So we need a solution that is in keeping with crisis management. So question one needs to be answered.
Well, if you are 8,000 short you are likely to have 80,000 applications for district constables. The training period is far more flexible and you can actually hire persons who are trained in various specialties. You would have to allow for part-time, which is actually how the system was designed.
Some people will not like my suggestion, but read my lips. We are 7,000 men and women short and we have the highest murder rate on planet earth all the time. So you do what you have to do to save lives.
This needs action now, not later. We are losing the war. We have improved since January 2018, but we are not at levels that we can ask for perfect solutions.
Now back to the public not knowing the facts. Recently, there has been a public showdown between two good men — Minister of National Security, Dr Horace Chang and Dr Rupert Francis. Dr Francis is the head of the Diaspora Crime Task Force.
There is a showdown because the minister did not want assistance in the form that the Diaspora wanted to render it. This dispute went back and forth, but I know that there is a middle ground they will eventually agree on. One thing became clear to me though — there is a belief out there that the force needs advice as to what to do.
This is not the case. It is well known by the police high command and Ministry of National Security what is required. It is obvious by the success of ZOSO. We need police occupation. The numbers are just not there to do it. Neither do the laws exist, nor the budget. So we need the Diaspora.
We need the resources they can provide. We need them to use their position as the largest contributor to the national purse to force legislation that is in keeping with a country at war; and to demand the Parliament to impose a state of emergency to save lives.
Most important, we need them to work with law enforcement agencies in their adopted countries to prevent the exportation of guns to Jamaica by Jamaicans living abroad. But because we do not want them to be part of the process that determines strategy does not mean we do not want help at all, or their advice. We always need ideas.
The truth is often the hardest to swallow if you have a preconceived perception of a reality.
I was talking to a friend of mine who attended Calabar High School with me in the 1980s. He told me he was willing to join the district constabulary and assist us in information technology. He is a bright guy and I am sure he could contribute. He seemed surprised though when I said, “Great, but we also would need you with a rifle in your hand a few hours a week too”.
He seemed confused. He is also a marksman. So I broke it down for him.
We need men on the ground with guns that are lawmen in the slums where the gunmen are the law. This way we would reduce their power in these slums, thus reduce the killing. He still did not seem to be sold on it. Nobody seems to be sold on it because we all want to believe what we think we know.
On the other hand, I am a realist. I know that no matter what degree I have it is irrelevant in a gunfight. What matters is my ability and training vs the enemy with the gun in his hand, plus a little bit of luck.
The most important fact is that the most important guy in this conflict is the one least respected, least paid and least appreciated; that being the cop in the street in the slum with the gun in his hand.
This is the part of the puzzle that the police high command, the Ministry of National Security and the gunmen realise. However, everybody else is ignorant to this reality and is full of views that minimise the contribution that the man in uniform provides at night in a zinc slum away from his woman while you are snuggling up to yours.
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