I don’t think I’m being a ‘Monday Morning Quarterback’, ie someone second guesses, because I have been expressing my views (often contrarian) for some time. What I’ve wondering for some time is how much of a real groundswell there is in Jamaica for the process of attacking crime differently, especially in a way that accepts that it cannot be done without a major overhaul of the police and policing. From my viewpoint, it’s patently obvious that the many vested interests in high crime levels (especially murder) have formed an unholy alliance that has put all lives on the line. If this were the USA, we would long have seen a movement named #JamaicanLivesMatter. Instead, we have to make sense of the fact that many Jamaicans detest the police (in large part because of their noted corruption and oft-reported brutality), but at the same time as many talk about fearing armed criminals, embrace them more than they embrace the police. Last week, I posted on Twitter:
But, focusing on whether or not there is some groundswell.
If my reading of the Jamaican newspapers is correct, it seems that editorial opinion is ready to take head-on the matter of murders in Jamaica and especially the role of weak and ineffective policing. For instance, today’s Gleaner editorial, In a state of anarchy | Where’s the political spine against crime?. This isn’t the first editorial on the topic, but more have appeared in a short time in 2018, not least because the rate of murders has taken another uptick, with 61 killings in 13 days (against 47 during the same period in 2017). Where the editorial struck me as different was in point the fingers not just at the police but at the up-to-now ‘spineless’ political leadership of the country:
‘Everyone agrees that the police force is notoriously resistant to change, is in need of drastic overhaul. if not a total reconstitution, including with greater civilian oversight.
Political leadership, however, has been afraid to tread too heavily on this front. For, the constabulary represents a strong political bloc that has been known to undermine governments. Changing this attitude shall require spine and will.’
First, a little difference of opinion. It’s far from proven that everyone agrees on what the police force needs, and that is clear if one reads or listens to some of the utterances of members of the public and some politicians, who prefer to court the important voting bloc, rather than stand equivocally against the police.
Second, just a brief look at what we need from society to get things really moving. We can agree on the ‘arms of government‘–the executive, legislative and judicial branches. We then need to think about and agree on how the rest of society is organized. We have long passed the days of the ‘estates’ of government involving, say, the monarchy and nobility, clergy, and the ‘working people’ in some form. Society has more elements that see themselves as capable of exercising power over decisions. For example, most would now recognize organized labour as a powerful pillar, and some would recognize a vibrant set of civil society organization as another pillar.
While, I don’t want to be prescriptive about Jamaica right now, it’s worth think about who or what are these modern pillars, because they must stand strong for any change to occur. For me, this is critical, because no matter how much intellectual force goes into an idea, if arms government are not in agreement on the need, and if many of the people are not in agreement, there will be no moment. So, while I am much in agreement with the views of commentators like Gordon Robinson or Garth Rattray, who both have columns published recently on crime-fighting, I wonder, first how much of the rest of Jamaica see the problems their way. Notably, Gordon Robinson touches what I think many will feel is a raw nerve, on the matter of whether citizens with arms make for better personal safety:
‘The call to disarm the citizenry until we have crime under control and clean systems to permit such a privilege for non-law enforcement professionals has been pooh-poohed, while we pursue the same-old, same-old in the hope of a different result. Stories of Wild West-type shootouts between miscreant(s) and licensed firearm holders that end in the eradication of an occasional miscreant used to defend citizens’ need to be armed actually prove the opposite.
Because our policemen so frequently ignore this truism, we’re tricked into believing the punishment for attempted robbery (or even attempted murder) is death, hence the unseemly public celebration whenever a would-be robber or gunman is cut down by a licensed firearm holder. This isn’t just a wrong response to attempted crime, but it further inculcates a culture of violence in our people that ensures increased, not reduced, violent crime.’
It may make little difference that I agree with him on this or that I agree with his assessment that the Zones of Special Operations are not working, in terms of dealing with crime in the nation overall. But, by their own admission, the security forces said they anticipated that criminals would escape the net of ZOSO, but by being flushed out would be more easily corralled. I found that logic bizarre when I first heard it, and I still find it bizarre as a policy now.:
‘Folks, ZOSO ain’t working. We’ve wasted another year trying quick fixes. It’s broke(n). When will we begin to begin to fix it?’
I’m one who sees Jamaica as a land of quick fixes that clearly do not work, yet persists in looking for quick fixes. I’m also one who sees Jamaica as full of people who are blocked from making certain decisions because they all compromised. The Contractor General is one important official charged with dealing with corruption who has recently come out saying similar, in his comments on the need to stop ‘hanky-panky Anancyism’, and touches on the invidious practice of political appointments to public agencies, and the matter of people’s willingness to step up and speak openly about what they complain about privately.