I understand the need–the great need–for the Jamaican police force to improve its image in the eyes of the nation’s population. But, something about ‘Police Week’ is not sitting well with me. Yesterday, policemen and women were all over the place, in groups of four and five. They were not ‘at the scene of the crime’. They were doing a social promotion: about 450 student constables and instructors, in addition to the regular officers, were deployed across the Corporate Area during the day as the Force rolled out ‘Police High Visibility’ and ‘Police Interaction Day’. With all of the talk recently about the escalation of violent crime, there’s a huge tension in wanting to be seen and also needing to deal with crime. Did so many police officers need to be ‘visible’ for public relations reasons? How did the Force think they would deal with solving crimes with this display?
I know this is a little churlish, but I feel that the visibility of the police is something that needs to be a constant, not an occasional, occurrence. People have so little confidence in the police’s ability to deal with crime. The police have such a bad record of solving crimes. How, then, can the Force feel it right to detract so much from their core activities?
The Force has about 10,000 officers. They have a crime clear-up rate that is abysmal–closer to only one-quarter or one-third. Unacceptable! Perhaps, the presence will be good, but it’s also one of those things that is perhaps later than it should have been. The presence of officers, or sense that they wanted to be present to help and assist, is something that does not seem to be really there. If reports are to be believed, people have good reason to fear the police rather than respect them–beatings, abusive language, mishandling of evidence, slow response rate, more.
I’m sympathetic to organizstions like the Force, but I wonder if they have a clear vision of what they need to do to address what is the problem they are facing. Standing on corners in large groups is great for photo opportunities, but I don’t see how it helps address the basic problem.