I did not know him but the news of his passing came as an absolute shock to me in the form of a Facebook notification from a post of an old colleague.
“Clunis just passed”.
It was not the kind of news anyone who supports the rule of law was expecting, and it certainly could not be the news that Superintendent Leon Clunis’ family was expecting, and on the day that he was to be discharged from the hospital no less.
On June 12th four officers were shot in an early morning operation led by Superintendent Leon Clunis. Detective Corporal Dane Biggs, and Constable Decardo Hylton were killed instantly, while Clunis and another officer were seriously injured.
The death of SP Leon Clunis at a time when he was perceived to be getting better, brings back in a shocking case of déjà vu the passing of his older brother Hopeton Clunis, who took ill here in the States and went home only to die suddenly days after telling me he was ready to go back to work.
Hopeton Clunis also served his country in the JCF before emigrating to the United States.
My personal grief at the loss of what is now three officers, has nothing to do with knowing either of them. I did not know either of them, but Jamaicans of all stripes who love our country have a shared interest in the survival of the rule of law.
The country we love cannot be divorced from the enforcement of our laws, and so we mourn for those who dedicate their lives to upholding our laws.
On a personal note, having served in the JCF, laughed and cried with my colleagues, toiled and bled, we know all too well what their sacrifice means to our country.
Without the rule of law, there is no country, there is no legitimate claim regarding the love of country, without a comprehensive understanding of the role the maintenance of law and order plays in that process.
As a former member, I have written hundreds and hundreds of articles, criticizing, supporting, pushing, cajoling, encouraging the JCF.
In so doing I have made countless recommendations to the political authorities on measures, that if applied, would markedly change and improve the crime trajectory in our country.
Regardless of which political party is in power, the national security apparatus hardly seem to be any better off.
There is no shortage of fancy language from the executives whenever the subject of crime and criminality is broached. What always seems to be missing are fundamental and concrete steps in the most basic aspects of policing in our country.
My own impression of this is one of exasperation. When we do not anticipate events and eventualities and plan ahead for them, we end up with incidents like the one which occurred in Horizon Park Saint Catherine on June 12th of this year.
The most frustrating aspect of the present circumstances within the JCF is that the very same sense of comfortability seems to exist today as it did almost three decades ago when I was a serving member.
Highly reactionary responses followed by a resettling, then back to the status quo.
The strategies of the past cannot and will not work, the elements within our society that are intent on breaking the laws and destroying lives do not play by the rules that the national security apparatus is playing by.
The idea in 2020 that cordons and sweeps will aid in lowering crime is not backed up by data.
The political interference into police operational perspectives have all but destroyed the JCF and rendered it a very expensive but useless paper Tiger.
I totally understand that the foregone is not the kind of thing that will square with the politically affiliated, civilian, or cop.
Notwithstanding, sometimes the truth is unpalatable and we have to take the bitter medicine.
One of the issues plaguing the JCF is its inability to co-opt practical, tried, and proven strategies.
That continued failure is solely the responsibility of the high command.
The failures of the JCF is the responsibility of the high command, contrary to what many members past and present believe.
Competent leadership devise strategies, delegate responsibility for their execution, and put in place measurable accountability markers.
This holds senior managers and middle managers accountable.
By extension, middle managers are responsible for the results throughout the entire department.
Accountability does not mean [pressuring, or creating a toxic workplace] for the men and women of the department.
On the contrary, clearly demarked accountability standards make the job of the junior members more defined and therefore more achievable.
Contrarily, the department has systematically adopted the hifalutin language of the upper Saint Andrew elites, and have allowed special interest groups to bleed unreasonable concepts into police training.
As a consequence, they have integrated unworkable policies into the JCF that are detrimental and downright dangerous to officer safety, poses an existential threat to their lives, and diminishes their ability to be effective police officers.
Jamaica is not the country for courtesy corp cops.
This may not be palatable to Andrew Holness, nor Peter Phillips, it may not play well with the know it all people in upper Saint Andrew, but real police work is not always pretty.
As a result, officers must be given the training they need to be able to meet and deal with all emerging threats.
Being equipped to deal with emerging threats is not synonymous with abusive policing. Being appropriately trained to meet the threats of today cannot be decoupled from effective policing in the 21st century.
Years ago I wrote that the JCF is on a course to becoming a courtesy corps. There is nothing wrong with courtesy [per-se], but when bullets start flying, the country needs competent police officers who know how to respond appropriately to put down those threats.
No one in their right mind could reasonably argue that the quality of the training being given to members of the JCF is up to par with the sophistication of the criminal minds in our country at this time.
Additionally, training should be an ongoing annual part of being a police officer.
The JCF’s inability to learn from events of the past, or worse yet, its inability to preplan strategies and contingencies to effectuate quick solutions when a crisis emerges, continue to be an Achilles heel for the force.
In article after article that I wrote in the past, I cautioned the police to pay close attention to the data the department gleans from deportees. That is not to say that all of the people deported to Jamaica are criminals, neither are they all on an inevitable course of committing violent crimes.
However, having access to that data which gives law enforcement a wealth of information on a returnee’s past, is invaluable to law enforcement’s ability to gather additional information and keep an eye on the most violent returnees.
A person’s past is sometimes a prologue to their future.
The JCF seems to be stuck going to work in the morning, going through the motions, going home at nights, then do it all over again the next day .….…day in day out. Sadly that kind of policing has long passed.
The JCF is supposed to be the preeminent security agency in the country. Threats never sleep, they never stop, therefore there can be no break in the continuity of vigilance needed to police Jamaica, one of the most violent places on earth.
Jamaica is nice, it is a beautiful place, but in order to keep it that way, it will require a competent security apparatus working behind the scenes.
The Jamaica Constabulary Force has certainly not been that force.
Mike Beckles is a former police Detective corporal, businessman, freelance writer,
he is a black achiever honoree, and publisher of the blog chatt-a-box.com.
He’s also a contributor to several websites.
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