I was somewhat surprised at the recent news that a police officer handing over a semi-automatic weapon at the Castleton Police Station, accidentally shot and injured a colleague.
My disbelief was not about the failure to observe safety standards alone, I have repeatedly contended that the lack of proper ongoing training and the lack of training facilities, continues to put officers and the public at risk.
What alarmed me was that in a country that is in the top (five)most violent countries in the world, officers are still required to hand over sidearms after concluding their tours.
We can no longer argue that officers cannot be trusted with firearms off duty if they are untrusted with them on duty. When we make those arguments we inexorably question wholesale, (a)the character of everyone in the JCF,(b) the ability of the agency to select people who are not criminals, and © the character of every Jamaican citizen even.
If we are saying that we cannot trust the gatekeepers of our society, who then can we trust.
If we throw out all of the foregone, the obvious default must be, that the lives of police officers are still undervalued by their civilian bosses.
No police officer should be required to go out and protect others, after which he/she is stripped of the means to protect his/her own life, and that of his/her family, after the tour of duty is complete. On this issue, the Police Federation must be unrelenting. On the other hand, it is imperative that the Federation also uses whatever clout it has to ensure that only the best candidates are selected for service in the department, and that the screening process is constantly evolving to ensure only the best and brightest are allowed in.
Sergent Patrae Rowe, though still constrained by the rules that govern all members, has been a vociferous and fearless voice for the men and women of the rank and file.
I share Rowe’s disgust that the (FLA). would conjure up reasons to deny members of the nation’s premier law enforcement agency the right to a firearm license.
It is important at this juncture to recognize that the issuance of Passports and firearm licenses was once a function of the JCF.
There is a legitimate conversation to be had as to (a) whether police corruption caused those two functions to be removed from their portfolio, or (b) those functions would have been removed regardless, based on political calculations?
Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. When power is placed into the hands of immoral people they generally abuse it. The solutions are to have continued vigilance, and a system that holds those who would abuse their power accountable.
The actions of the FLA must be viewed within that lens, at the same time shouting in the wind will do little to influence change, particularly with an administration that has been tone-deaf to the needs of the police.
The efforts of the Federation must be centered on using the tools it has at its disposal to make the Government sit up and take notice of its demands.
The (FLA), like theJCF, are both arms of the very same government, it requires tough and sustained lobbying pressure to get the Parliament to make changes to parts of itself that are not working cohesively.
On the other hand, the incidents of attacks on police officers and soldiers must be cause for alarm, not just to members of the security forces and their families, but to all law-abiding Jamaicans whom they serve.
The call by Sergeant Rowe for the death penalty to be activated for offenders who try to kill cops, not just for those who actually do so, is understandable, nevertheless, it came off as shrill.
I do not want to see a Jamaica in which the death penalty is on the table for anyone who is accused of attacking police.
There is more than enough evidence that when draconian measures like what the Federation boss is proposing becomes law, it becomes a sliding scale for police to manipulate and abuse.
The JCF, for its own survival and legitimacy, must radically transform its intelligence and investigative capabilities.
Officer’s safety and security are within their own remit, they must decide how they protect themselves. It is for those reasons I support the Federation’s position as it relates to the FLA.
Nonetheless, members of the JCF must continue to demonstrate that they are equal to the task of protecting themselves, even if other arms of the government are working against them. The JCF cannot purport to be up to the task of protecting the nation if it is demonstrably unable to protect itself.
This would be a good time for members of the Police Officers Association,(POA) the group that represents gazetted members of the force, to throw its support behind the Federation on this issue.
Together we are stronger, over to Senior Superintendent Wayne Cameron and the POA.
Mike Beckles is a former police Detective corporal, businessman, freelance writer, he is a black achiever honoree, and publisher of the blog mikebeckles.com.
He’s also a contributor to several websites.
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