I’m not besotted by TV series, like Games of Thrones: few plots are hard to discern, and when they try to move away from what seems obvious twists, they often become just weird. Live events, like sport, and even court room proceedings, have many real twists that are better than fiction. 

Again, this week, Jamaicans and anyone who wants to follow the proceedings online, are being treated to another episode in the West Kingston Commsission of Enquiry. This time, we have another set of police officers, mainly in the form of the then-Deputy Commissioner, Glenmore Hinds.  

Former DCP Hinds giving testimony (courtesy TVJ)

I‘m not wont to talk about people’s bodies, but I like it that our top cops, have their tops cropped so short that they shine. Anyway, to the man’s evidence. He gave another insight into police thinking in trying to apprehend (police jargon) Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke in May 2010. What did we learn?

  • The JCF had plans in hand from at least the preceding year to ‘get their man’, whom they knew to head the most serpentine criminal organization in the land.
  • They had ‘intelligence’ (jargon for an informer) that gave them a great insight into the inner workings of the man’s gang.
  • They knew where he hung out in Tivoli Gardens and where he had a home in a plusher part of Kingston.
  • Tivoli lived with a ‘code of silence’, with no one saying anything bad about the area and its inhabitants.

Yet, with all of this ‘intelligence’ and concern about how Tivoli was run by a “surrogate government”, with Mr. Coke as judge and jury, and that the workings of the gang made ‘normal policing’ impossible for years, and how the gang’s ‘sub-franchises’ (makes it sound like a burger empire, or is it burglary empire?) were also making life hard on a broader geographical scale, the man remain untouched.

Now, I’m no hero, so when I hear that the police could cruise into west Kingston and be allowed to move freely, but when they tried to apprehend anyone, the citizenry would turn on them and stop them, I have to ask “What were you waiting for to get in there and restore normal order?” I’ve never heard of police tolerating such things unless under certain kinds of instructions. But, let that take you where it will.

With this background, however, I then find it bizarre that the police and security forces did not expect utter mayhem when they decided to mount an operation to arrest the man. THE WRITING WAS ON THE WALL!

Now, planning is one of those things that I happened to have studied. So, I look on in total disbelief when I hear about ‘plans’ that the police laid out. They knew the area was riddled with gullies (or in their terms, ‘waterways’–so floral). Yet, they did not put in place procedures to block them as escape routes, even though they knew these had been used this way in the past. Guess how Mr. C escaped? Give that lady a prize! If the ‘intelligence’ was so intelligent, why was it not informing police actions better? Oh, is that the meaning of ‘artificial intelligence’?

It’s ironic that this week saw the passing of one of the best mathematical minds of recent times, John Nash. He was famous for work on game theory. No time for nerdiness, now, but one of its elements is to try to figure out strategies to beat an opponent. It should have been known by the police that if the criminals could be inflitated by ‘intelligence’, then so too could the police force. We don’t need to look into spy dramas to see how that works. More than that, if the criminals got wind that their inner sanctum had been breached, then what better than to feed the crow what it wants and let it fly away but with nothing of much value? It’s spy versus spy, and in Mad magazine fashion, that often ends with stalemate. 

 

I cannot believe that the police would have relied on their ‘intelligence’ alone, but it’s hard to discern what else they were using to guide, or misguide, them. 

What we now have seen clearly is that the police did what often leads to bigger trouble: they tolerated that which they should have stopped. Like with all such behaviour, the action needed to stop it is much more over time than it would have been at the outset. People and organizations build strength over time. Your adversary gets bigger and hard to control. I’ve never been to police or war school, but it’s just an obvious fact of life. ALL the talk about how the country dis-served the people of Tivoli is good sounding but was aided and abetted daily by those whose task it was to serve the community and deal with crime. Like grease on a cooker that isn’t removed, it gets sticky and dirtier and harder to dislodge.

On top of those bigger picture aspects of the police’s activity, we were allowed to get a taste of the operations on the ground from another police witness. I did not see much of the testimony, but I watched the segment when an attack on the police was described. We were told of a ‘drive-by’ shooting and of gunmen ‘”shooting from trees”. We heard how the police took cover inside a building. The commission chairman asked if the police did not fire back. He was told yes. He then asked if any men fell from the trees, and if not whether that was a sign of poor marksmanship. Of course not! It was a sign of compassionate police work. Like with an ad agency, people can often believe too much in their own copy. 

But, all of this vivid insight is for what? The lawyers have their briefs, some of which are often so tight that their eyes are popping out on stems. But, they need not get into such a huff and puff. All they need to do is watch Sir David’s right hand and if his pen is moving. I asked JNN if they would put an inset screen up so that we could see when this was moving. In fact, they could go one better and have it toggled to a beeper so that when we are dozing off we can be alerted to pay attention to something that is really notable. Sir David said he’s not written much. That’s a lot of money to being paying for nothing much. No, I’m not going there…yet.

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