The Starting Team: April 8, 2015, President Barack Obama’s trip to Jamaica, the anticipation seemed like a World Cup football game where Jamaica made the play-off. The 24-hours ticket created a nostalgic vibe across all strata of fans. Some even took credit for his visit.
Some of what was highlighted suggested that the Jamaican government bought a new set of brooms and swept up several unappealing spots that had been overlooked for decades.The facelift gave an impression of a well-kept yard when it was simply a temporary cosmetic:
Many asked, when the mascara fades, now the last whistle has been blown, what next. Despite the joy, social media quietly erupted, where pundits, politicians, and bleachers seized the opportunity and aired what is called their dirty laundry. Few debated the new asphalt concrete pavements, and what happen after it fades.
One suggested only criminals benefit, as people are scared to venture out on these new roads after dark. Additionally, temporary relocation of mentally ill and homeless people in disguising images of poverty. Given the president’s compassion for the poor and youth in general, leaving these images intact could have resulted in more aid. Under his administration, the US budget for the homeless to help affordable housing programs increased and the homeless rate has been reduced, according Housing and Urban Development.
The irony is that some have been part of the team for decades and refused to quit, retire, or accept the penalties for their foul play. Many players who arrived at the airport and the town hall meeting wore hidden bandages, hurting in disguise. The region’s stagnated socio-economic problems have been a cancer for decades and this one-day match has not solved corruption, poverty, high unemployment, crime, and social stratification. Update: Only Obama can take full credit as to where he visits. Obama’s trip was more than a popularity contest.
Paradigm Shift: Even women in power, when women negotiate, it looks like they continue to suffer a social cost: the unintentional bias still lingers: Before the MVP is selected: First, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller must be commended for a successful visit. Despite the struggles and obstacles, Obama called Marley’s house “one of the most fun meetings I’ve had since I’ve been president”. The reggae legend Bob Marley lived there until his death in 1981.
Even Jamaica’s relaxed and warm attitude brushed off on him (no comment about what might have been the cause). He even signed the Jamaica House visitors’ log one day in advance: April 10, 2015, and not April 9, 2015. What was this trip or game about? Despite the chatter, the Caribbean needs a new broom. Few local outlets believed that Jamaica’s new economic power in the region plays a role. Local pondering and political ploy is always an option. According to Reuters, Obama wants to reassert US leadership in the Caribbean that has been overlooked. Many analysts say a key reason Washington is suddenly paying attention to the Caribbean Basin is that it wants to wean the islands off Venezuelan oil and influence.
Recently, the United States declared Venezuela a national security threat. When a country is so declared, it is the first step in starting sanctions. However, CNN’s Joe Johns in a recent interview with Jamaica’s Police Commissioner Carl Williams discussed the potential of sleeper cells in the region.
This issue appears moot, but he noted that Jamaica has formed a new intelligence unit to collect data in collaboration. Stay with me here, the game is still playing. I will get to the MVP. Concerning potential sleeper cells as reported, the region has not seen Al Qaeda, as in the Arabian Peninsula, capitalizing on the region’s poverty or a homemade bomb to date, or locals travelling to join ISIS.
However, these concerns should not be taken lightly. Even smart people can be confused to believe that only Islamic countries and religion can create terrorists. One cannot discount the ideologies that it can strike anywhere. However, with the lack resources to solve a wave of recent local crimes, one wonders? Several victims have lost trust in the government and are still searching for answers and justice.
The Pick: Many outsiders do not claim to be experts on the Caribbean region’s politics, crime, economic, or social justice. In fact, legally, several of us cannot play or even cast a vote, but the migration roots continue to connect these ocean shores. So, technically one never leaves the ballot box and checking-in is mandatory even to simply make sure a future visit or mom’s return can be fun without an overwhelming security apparatus. Although it seems society is picking MVPs before a season ends, Commissioner Carl William is the MVP. You might not agree because your crime and safety concerns, even corruption, remain active.
Dealing with crime variables is certainly a challenge: all economic correlations, including changing criminogenic needs, the security team has to stay the tallest person in the room. Commissioner Williams will always have difficult task ahead, especially to decide potential sleeper cells, track and measure criminal history and people engaged in crime, and prediction requires synergy. Sadly, today it appears social media can get more evidence than a local investigator. Jamaica, Trinidad, Guatemala, Haiti and others cannot be successful with pockets of outlaws who continue to cause mayhem, and residents remain silent (no snitch). These communities must become vigilant and be protected. Mr Williams and others holding top cop positions cannot solve crime alone.
If Obama’s trip was built on security concerns, the nation needs to realize, despite their frustrations with local criminal elements, solving crime requires critical data and analysis with methodological commitment from the team. The Road Ahead: Since high-profile games are played in nation’s capital, often rural communities are overlooked when they need a new social and justice stadium. Recently, a lifeless body stood still for hours from a machete chop. (What happened to a trained forensic expert?) Speaking on condition of anonymity, an officer noted you cannot solve a crime arriving several hours later, at times intoxicated, the entire community has possession of the deceased. The crime scene compromised and the officer fears for his/her own safety in investigating the incident to decide the direction.
There are many parents still searching for justice. Fourteen-year-old Kayalicia Simpson’s family now wonders how the system missed the warning signs, while other mothers are living in fear of their young child being kidnapped and raped to and from schools. The idea that some local communities now have turf wars like the Sunnis, Shiites, and ISIS is problematic. These conflicts cannot be allowed to be manifested into more issues.
Eliminating potential threats and cutting recidivism requires community trust and resources. The politics that often surrounds community policing has to be balanced with accountability. It is less likely for a young man or woman to join a gang when he or she has opportunities, equal protection, and respect for the rule of law enforcement. Dangerous ideologies are often formed from exclusion. What if the society had continued to isolate the Rastafarian movement, the question posed to President Obama on the legalization of marijuana would not have been possible. Inclusion only makes a society stronger even when we disagree
The crime rates have declined as reported. However, several are not resolved while victims search for follow-up and support. The sense of hopelessness cannot be measured. Strengthening local police departments with modern equipment and training is more critical, even sensitivity to a rape victim. “To serve and protect” is not simply the power of one badge received after an academy.
The recent reported killing of a police officer shot dead by another officer after allegedly trying commit a robbery on a bar only further deteriorate trust in the system. The ending of police violence is equally important, and an independent review is paramount.
Our Hope: As Obama said, “Wah gwan, Jamaica?” Being critical of public safety only makes the system better. It is not a good feeling having to spend one’s vacation in another part of town simple because of a fear being killed, and frustration in seeing others suffering from barbaric atrocities. For Prime Minister Simpson-Miller, despite difficulties, she has tried and needs more collaboration. This is not an endorsement. Winning this bid to host Obama comes with enormous responsibility.
Obama leaves Jamaica, what next? The region has to get back its moral compass. Leadership can no longer ignore rural areas until an election season, while continuing to depend on its fruits and vegetables. As an outsider, how do you choose this MVP? One simple watches the young people basking in hope and change through education.
After the last whistle has blown, and parade is over, the confetti is off the street, and planting of new trees to meet the next leader, the commissioner will be the fence around their safety to grow. If this MVP has already begun to stretch this physical and mental fence, great. If not, we cannot see how he can build confidence. I still believe the community is where his best players are.
Finally, the critical value attributed to the cosmetics cost generated for Obama’s visit only confirms that if the region focuses its resources on solving systematic problems, the temporary beautification can have a lasting effect, and residents will have less ammunition during high profile visits to vent their frustrations.