Does the commissioner of police make any difference to crime?

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For decades crime and violence has flourished no matter who is police chief. Quasi-military bodies like the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) are self-sustaining, so who sits on top is made nominally by those below, but a disruptive manager may deliver great results.Despite mumbo-jumbo, the appointment is routine, but we need a gifted leader to bring criminals to justice, secure their cache of arms, and reassure the nation. Is George Quallo the man?

Some with outré ideas left, and the rank and file have no mind for a putsch to oust criminals in their ranks or society, but is Sir George a sleeper biding his time to do us proud? The white chiefs left; so as reparations, all in the queue were assured a shot at the top pension post for pain and suffering. Novelette, too, will have her day if anti-feminists allow.

When I wrote about sexual harassment and assault in the JCF it was not picked up by “talking heads” or public defenders, so let’s see. The “squaddie” mentality exists at all levels, and we now witness the usual proto-corrupt promotion being hyped by politicians, though nothing new is here to fight crime.

Of the 28 commissioners, those before independence were free from political control or service bias. Jack Wright locked up Alexander Bustamante; it is more needful today but harder. Commissioner George Quallo seems a gentleman; a credit to family, friends. He is a worker. Our 16th commissioner of police since independence will now get the top pension. Like all after Croswell, Langdon, Middleton, he is past prime and offended no politician. Is this the profile to control crime?

On content analysis Sir George’s speech is short of action on crime but affirms “communication…crime prevention… citizen relationships” a dozen times; also “listening” to colleagues and a cryptic comment on administrative obstacles. Is he afraid to speak plainly?

Cabinet says crime is a priority, but we see no proof. Health is a priority so it gets new funds and experts from World Health Organization, Pan American Health Organization, and World Bank. Growth is too, so Cabinet set up a council. Michael Lee-Chin says crime may screw investment, so where is the anti-crime dream team? Does National Security Minister Robert Montague expect us to invest and produce in a fear-ridden nation?

Quallo’s elevation is his personal victory; it will not arrest crime. Most of our police chiefs since Independence served around two years. Could your firm prosper with serial pinch hitters all past their prime? Does the International Monetary Fund see this almshouse practice?

If you were 19 months from retirement would you risk all to fight murderers? Is Cabinet in a parallel universe? Which firm employing 20,000, with its core business in crisis, elevates a man past his prime to do in 19 months what he did not do in 40 years?

So let’s be conspiracy theorists. Whose agenda requires a short-term, pliant chief? Who will be appointed chief in 2019 to take us to elections? Who promised Novelette what? With all the politically inspired murders politicians live to a ripe old age, but the middle class, workers, the poor mothers, and kids die daily. My God, life is unfair!

What is success in crime fighting? Crime statistics are misleading as they move up or down at the will of criminals. Police only react to their acts. They bait the police with murders, draw them out, sit tight, study tactics, and do their thing.

Crime must decline, but how? First, the police must catch criminals and build good cases. Do stats matter when the miscreants are still out there? Second, police must find, show us, and neutralise weapons. Do stats matter when the weapons are still out there? Third, corrupt police must be caught. Finally, police must arrest many for gateway crimes; eg, many who under guise of stealing ackee and mango (they know police have no interest) case people’s homes and return to rape, rob and murder; schools produce them; men at the traffic light who make no eye contact as they beg, but scan inside your car and know everything.

As Sir George was sworn in, Cressida Dick was appointed (April 10) chief of London Metropolitan Police (10 million people), the largest of some 20-odd police forces in the UK. An Oxford and Cambridge top graduate, she chose a small Thames Valley force, was head of anti-terrorist division (Remember Jean Charles de Menezes, the innocent electrician shot as a bomber in the subway station?) in London. She retired, but is now called to be chief of the Met. It could not happen here.

Our JCF has not changed much since the English left, even though the one national force fails us. First, we need smaller, accountable police jurisdictions, as in the UK, so let’s begin with Kingston Metro, Cornwall, Middlesex, Surrey each with a chief, shared services, and data. The Independent Commission of Investigations will be a FBI-type body working across the four jurisdictions.

Second, an educated constable is the key to good policing. Education is not degrees. It is the sum total of knowledge, skill, values, and refinements we get from school; it gives mastery of English, thinking skills so we excel at self-study, jobs, basics of many things and relate well. It peaks at secondary school, as tertiary is specialisation. Montague should request the blueprint for the diploma and bachelor’s degree in defence studies negotiated between the JCF and Ministry of Education teams from 2014.

Third, securing communities is true national security. This is not the same as community policing. We cannot secure the nation unless we empower communities. Police are never enough, so since our lives are on the line allow us to partner in securing ourselves. You ask me not to do anything until police arrive, but what if the men return to kill me. In hundreds of communities only 30 may need deep policing, so focus on prevention, mediation, investigation, and interdiction.

A visionary police chief, young or old, for five years is an asset. Sir George, you earned the pre-retirement award. If you stand and be counted we will stand with you; if you relax and fade quietly, we understand. We will get on with defending ourselves. It is not that we love you less, but we love Jamaica more. Stay conscious!

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