Over the decades, a perception has existed in Jamaica that there is a problem with how the Jamaica Constabulary Force carries out its mandate. All and sundry have had ideas on what needs to be done to effectuate change.
Various entities and individuals have done surveys, indicating that the police are bad, do a shitty job, and that changes must be made.
There will be no excuses coming from me on the question of competence and character as it relates to the JCF and its members; nevertheless, no single entity has done more harm and disservice to this debate than the media in the way it reports on issues involving the police, and how it editorializes on the subject itself.
Having had the honor of serving in the JCF three decades ago, and having left after only a decade, I too share some of the anxieties that others have of the agency, and the way it goes about its business.
In fact, I left the agency, not because of the poor pay and working conditions, but because of the way the agency is structured, run, and viewed.
How people are promoted, renumerated, and cared for, remains critical issues that continue to plague the agency, resulting in an attrition rate that far exceeds that of any police department globally, except in some Mexican provinces.
The question of competence and character of the senior leadership has been, and continues to be, a sore issue, one that earning a degree or two will not solve, but only serves to exacerbate.
In a country that hardly has any private-sector jobs because of the persistent crime problem, it is remarkable that the JCF cannot meet recruitment targets, and is bleeding the people it manages to recruit and train to the tune of 50 per month.
Even more vexing is that some of the people who leave, don’t go off to work in other Caribbean Islands police departments; some stay right at home and find other jobs.
What that tells me is that they are dissatisfied, not just with the agency, but they are unwilling to make the sacrifices they are asked to make, based on the levels of appreciation and remuneration they receive for their troubles.
The arrogance of the people who commission and carry out the surveys is commensurate with the arrogance that permeates the entire civil society.
No one bothers to ask the police officers what they would like to see change, considering that they are doing the work. No one bothers to speak to the officers’ families to determine why they support their loved ones leaving the force.
No one bothers to understand that some families have two or more members serving in the agency. And equally galling, they do not seek to find out from the poorer class of Jamaicans, why they now refuse to surrender any more of the young bright family members to a job that is highly dangerous and ridiculously thankless.
In a country that Transparency International rates inherently corrupt, those who criticize corruption in the JCF singularly, as opposed to other Government bodies, or, better yet, against the broader society, only show their biases and ignorance.
There is nothing wrong with the JCF that is not wrong with the Bar Association, the Health Sector, the Teaching profession, or any other.
The challenge for the police is its high visibility and the powers it is given under the laws. It has become everyone’s whipping boy, even the suit & tie criminals in high society because of its powers.
There is nothing wrong with the JCF that is not wrong with Jamaica. It is inconceivable that one can scoop up a bucket of clean water from a dirty pool.
Fix the blatant corruption in our homes and communities, and government agencies begin to change to reflect the societal changes.
In the meantime, the idea that the Commissioner of police needs time to make structural changes that will remediate the Island’s violent crime rate would be laughable if it weren’t so consequential to those dying and the loved ones they leave behind.
Crime thrives in an environment of acquiescence. Jamaica is a criminal-acquiescent society, chock-full of all-knowing opinionated people who knows how to do other people’s jobs, but are horrible at theirs.
When we have laws that hold everyone accountable, from Jamaica house to the cardboard & zinc house, we may begin to see a change in the nation’s crime statistics.
Continuing to single out the people who are making the sacrifices for ridicule, only further reduces their efforts and makes it more difficult to attract new people to the profession.
But then again, that makes no sense to the critics, because they have never borne any of the sacrifices, now have they?
Mike Beckles is a former Police Detective, businessman, freelance writer, black achiever honoree, and creator of the blog mikebeckles.com.