Commentary: Jamaica’s new police commissioner

Hearths are  BrokenWelcome: Now that the search is over, and you have been selected to lead the Jamaican Police Department as the “Top Cop.” First, congratulations! It has been a tumultuous year. Many hearts have been broken, millions of dollars spent on earlier leaders, some have been imported, but the criminal elements still linger in society. The public and the media will scrutinize you daily and your goals will be seen as political . Today, you will find an organization system still struggling with its past and you are not alone in the region. You will be heavily guarded as if you are in a war zone in Afghanistan or Iraq, but please try to step out, and get to know the community. Moreover, ask why many of the beautiful homes there have more locks and metal protections than the prison institution. Do not be defined by the colors you wear or association as it could signal of party affiliation. However, the criminal justices should be bipartisan and community-focused. 

The region is still democratic and averages an election every four to six years. It is less than likely you will be forced out of office by the army. However, it seemed the commissioner’s job has become a personality contest driven by politics in selective disguise ruled by an oligarchy system. I am aware that the police organization is still evolving and good leadership is critical. I hope your  records are intact, because I have seen past behaviors re-emerge that caused trust and credibility issues in the organization. So, please cut all ties if you have any questionable past, or resign before the public realize. If you fail, we all fail. Your tenure must be given time to materialize. It appears you will be the fifth commissioner in ten years. I am not sure if this is a good record. Though you were not my first choice, it would be premature and self-serving of anyone to form an alliance against you without giving your policy time to work. Therefore, the public support and collaboration is important while holding you accountable. “A leader without followers is just a walk.”


The Challenge: Many challenges are affecting the policing organization, such as legal, social, generational, responsiveness and accountability. The economy is still slowly rebounding from the 2008 recession and financial collapse, and it profoundly affected the delivery of service. This is not to say the criminal elements have the upper hand. However, funding, staffing, and more specialized services are also struggling to develop the right talent to decrease structural problems. Therefore, building an organization for the new world takes long-term strategy and leadership. In a recent report by Tyrone Thompson, Costly Cop, millions have been paid to citizens by the Jamaican government. Taxpayers’ money would be better spent on educational development and for the less privileged and not for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, and wrongful death filed against the police force and other civil rights violations. In addition, officers’ training and development in community policing could have benefited tremendously.cj422 You are not alone, in New York City, “nearly $1 billion has been paid over the past decade to resolve claims against the nation’s largest police department, according to an investigation by The Associated Press.”  However, it does not make your issue any less important. Even one dollar paid is too much, because it deteriorates trust.

The complexities of police organizations of the future will must not just an understanding from the inside talents, but also the outside world. In addition, often in criminal justice, it is only seen as an offender, the court, and law enforcement. When a crime has been committed, managing both the offender after adjudication does not stop at the courthouse. Sometimes, it involves jail time, supervision or both, monitoring, and even rehabilitation and that requires talent. The organization has to give a holistic approach utilizing agility to mitigate the challenges. Several staff will not share the same ideology as earlier generations. Many will only see the criminal justice system as part of the problem where several departments still run with an old top down management system that makes it very difficult to change. However, they are still part of the team and share the same community with the population they serve.

A mural painted by the citizens of the Mountain View community shows their partnership and support for the Jamaica Constabulary Force. USAID

A mural painted by the citizens of the Mountain View community shows their partnership and support for the Jamaica Constabulary Force. USAID

Blueprint: Leadership has to be able to put others first and develop people, share values, and a connection to the organization, as experts note. He or she has to develop a value driven system based on trust, honesty, respect, integrity and, furthermore, what drives people, and how it affects the organization. Your approach should be one of a community hospital. The incentive, as many scholars have noted, is the delivery service like a network that will must all of us — industry, clinicians, caregivers, families and patients — to coordinate efforts in new ways, so they work together more efficiently to serve more people, with better outcomes at lower costs and higher quality standards. I hope the same concept can be adapted when it comes to your law enforcement team. Transparency and public trust is still paramount.

A vast some cases will be on your desk not resolved or being addressed properly. In some cases, the communities know these perpetrators, but are unwilling to come forward despite rewards being offered. This is not limited to an average citizen, there are also concerns of corrupted officers being promoted, and others who spoke up are reassigned, or even demoted. If the foundation is being built on sand, as it rains, no one will be there to hold the organization’s erosion. We cannot expect citizens have confidence when ranking officials have credibility issues.

Com-policingSometimes no amount of reward will prompt these people to come forward if they have lost hope in the justice system. Moreover, success will not be based on where you live in an isolated community, and what type of vehicle you are assigned. It will be a “barefoot” approach, as one would normally take a walk in the community and mingle with the haves and the have-nots.

The department’s task is an ongoing mission not driven only by a reduction in murders committed each year, but citizens’ sense of security. Even when terminating one of your own for any unnecessary use of force and corruption will continue to be a cancer.

Often these barriers to change are still woven in an old colonial pride that “we know what is best.” Fighting criminals can be a difficult task, combined with group thinking and few powerful but yet corrupt people who are scared of being exposed.

The region has to make sure employees of the future have a solid external relationship: This is called “social opportunity.” It is extremely important to be seen as giving back to the community utilizing strategic unity and agility to mitigate the challenges.

police4Moving on: The lack of accountability always costs these departments tremendously in the end. The difference in the Caribbean is that most law-enforcement negative behaviour and actions are not viewed as racial issues such as what we have seen in Ferguson Missouri, USA on August 9, 2014,. Nevertheless, addressing these systematic problems requires leadership that understands that the rule of law defines roles and responsibility.

Why do we care: Looking in from the outside, you are correct to push back, since most of our problems are the upcoming winter for our parents who left decades ago, and we are now arranging for them to escape the cold until it gets warm again. Alternatively, an excuse to visit. Sadly, many are deciding on landing elsewhere due to safety concerns there.

Your Application: The task of recruitment is to generate a pool of qualified people to fill a task. When these basic requirements have been met and choice becomes muted, the public has to question the vetting process where turnover seems high. Once again, we are at this revolving door.

For example, (FBI) Wilfred Rattigan Unit Chief for the FBI’s Africa, Asia, and Middle East Operations Unit in Washington DC, and who has 28 years’ experience in law enforcement did not even get an interview.

Mr Rattigan and others with strong heritage in the Caribbean, with excellent outside training and skills across several social science and disciplines, would like to make a difference there by giving back. However, it seems sometimes a tunnel vision mindset prohibits any outside help. Even when one is selected, a lack of collaboration leads to failures.

Many of us have never met Mr Rattigan and this is not a petition. However, his background looks impressive as a public servant, with global operational functions that cover many criminal elements. This could be a bonus. Furthermore, a conduit for much needed technology, criminal tracking systems that could use an upgrade in  tracking and classifications of criminals and a victim focus. On the other hand, this is not about Mr. Rattigan, It is much broader. It is also about qualified “Senior Ranking Women Officers” who have lead several departments for many years, and would have been just as effective as other men Commissioners in the past.

Subconsciously I might be biased because we both hold public service jobs in the same federal department. More importantly, the systematic problem in the region requires a leader not driven by a comprehensive compensation package. This makes it less likely to become political, trapped in misconduct, and overlook the overall criminal elements through sympathetic actions. In the end,  the concern shared  is not to cast any doubt that you will be a great leader, it  is simple to make sure the integrity of the system is maintained, and citizens both visitors and residence safety remain a priority

The public must demand answers from the Police Service Commission’s selection process and any ties to the organization. However, I am aware sometimes one might have reservation due to US connection and see people as a double agent working for the US. Again, I support your or any other  leaders because he or she will need it. This job is always bigger than the leader.

Finally: thank you for serving: I hope you are the right person. The constant turnover at the head only leads to more lack of confidence at the bottom, and the government will continue to pay for crimes.

Previously I talked about Missing One and the erosion of the community. You and the politicians have significant influence to make a difference. It is more complex, selfish, and isolated today. However, leadership does not have to be about the perfect, but striving for perfection.


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