Policing? What policing? The loss of integrity and professionalism

I had one of those ‘I’m mad as Hell, and I can’t take it anymore’ moments, yesterday, that are all too common in Jamaica, and wrote the following letter to the Editors of Jamaica Observer and Gleaner. The Observer published if today, and I’ll see if The Gleaner follows suit.

I omitted from my letter the police response on the rape debacle that they had no established protocol for transporting prisoners. Many were quick to say, protocol or not, there is ‘common sense’ and ‘decency’. Someone asked me last night, whether or not the transporting of the victim and accused may taint the case, in the event of an identity parade.

No sooner had I read my letter, than I read another story in today’s papers of how police bungling is causing more grief, this time because two police divisions could not decide which of them should be responsible for a murder scene, taking some 8 hours to make that decision before the body could be cleared. Read the report here.

Many people aren’t looking for the police to solve crimes and right all of society’s ills, but look to them to show a certain degree of integrity and professionalism that would give confidence that matters will be handled well. That lack of integrity and professionalism is something that no amount of words from police ‘high command’ seems able to change.

The police seem resistant to outside forces of change. By that, I mean the attitude to oversight is unashamedly hostile. Yet, the reason for that need–the many and disturbing cases of police misconduct–dont seem to be addressed in other ways.

People have in their sights an escalating murder rate, but my concern is that the many little things that the police are supposed to do daily and in dealing with a wide range of matters of public order keep showing them up to be less than competent.  For an economist, it would be an easy thing to argue the the function of policing ought to be taken away from the body that is now in charge of it.

Governments, rightly, are wary of tampering with police powers, but at some stage, with any organization, one has to ask if the present set-up can take you where you want to go.