August 9, 2020

Jamaica: Senior officers criticised as lazy and defiant of Commissioner

(JAMAICA GLEANER) – In a stinging rebuke by the police union, high-ranking officers in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) have been accused of abusing their authority in approving transfers and other human-resource administrative action in a petty bid to punish subordinates.

The hierarchy of the force has also been fingered for being lazy and openly resistant to the reform mandate of the commissioner of police, Major General Antony Anderson.

The scolding was delivered by Detective Sergeant Patrae Rowe, chairman of the Jamaica Police Federation, who has lavished praise on Anderson – a former head of the Jamaica Defence Force – a departure from the convention of token diplomatic acceptance of, or cold-shouldered unease with, military leaders who have leapfrogged second-in-line officers.

Rowe, who eventually assumed chairmanship of the Police Federation after the controversial ouster of Arleen McBean was reversed earlier this year, painted the force leadership as being “on a frolic of their own” and pushing an agenda of defiance that was mutinous. He also said that the many lower-ranked cops were demotivated by a culture of exploitation by superiors he characterised as “godlike and brutish”.

“The propensity to make administrative functions and entitled benefits punitive continues to be a major issue within the Jamaica Constabulary Force. Transfers and leave are used by many senior managers as punishment. Denial of leave for no good reason and transfers to distant and unfavourable locations are the subject of frequent complaints from rank-and-file officers.

“Commissioner Anderson has been handed some incompetent, inconsiderate and lazy subordinates who are aiding against his efforts. The commissioner’s approach to members’ welfare and concerns are sometimes incongruent with some of his subordinates, who are openly defiant,” said Rowe in an op-ed to this newspaper yesterday.

Rowe also took a swipe at the policy shift to scrap mathematics as a requirement for joining the JCF, describing it as a backward move that demeaned the profession and could compromise the quality of national security.

He warned that whittling away entry requirements in order to boost recruitment might spell danger for the police force, proving “that we are prepared to give one of our most important jobs to our least qualified people”.

“I have been in spaces before and hear Jamaicans encourage unemployed youths who express frustration at trying to find employment to join the police force. As if when all else fails, try policing. A friend of mine retorted, ‘If you caah solve a maths problem, how you a go solve people problem?’” Rowe quipped.

The Police Federation chairman believes that mathematics offered crucial competencies such as critical thinking, which he said were important to citizen engagement and crime fighting.

Jamaica’s lawmen have often come under withering criticism for their history of brute force and extrajudicial shootings, as well as a lack of forensic intelligence in solving crime. Rowe appears to agree that there is credence to the link between unintelligence and misconduct.

“The value of the test of reasoning becomes so much more handy as a police officer. … No organisation should have to reduce standards to attract people. People should raise their standards to attract good jobs.

“… When we reduce the qualifications, we will not only attract incompetence, but we also attract indiscipline. Policing and indiscipline are incongruous and a force of undisciplined members will lead to chaos,” he said.

Senior lecturer in political psychology at The University of the West Indies, Mona, Dr Christopher Charles, however, disagrees with Rowe’s suggestion that mathematics not be scrapped from the list of prerequisites to join the JCF.

Charles said that Jamaicans have historically had problems mastering mathematics. He prefers candidate selection to be based on a broader set of criteria.

“There is no evidence that if you don’t have math, you cannot be efficient. That doesn’t make sense. We need the police officers. What they need is an excellent recruitment process and a change in certain things like a lack of resources. There needs to be important institutional oversight,” said the lecturer.

The Police Federation boss has also criticised the current training regimen, suggesting that its microwave-speed recruitment and deployment philosophy was underpreparing cops for on-the-ground engagement.

Rowe said that when he was enlisted in 2006, he and his batchmates underwent eight months of training, compared to the realities of today where “civilians are being mass-produced and the training reduced to only four months”.

The JCF currently trains between 750 and 900 police officers per year, but attrition of about 500 personnel leaves net recruitment of approximately 400.

There are around 12,000 current members of the constabulary.

Anderson has laid out an ambitious plan of raising the JCF complement to 18,000 members by 2024, which would translate to around 643 police officers for every 100,000 citizens, as against under 430:100,000 at present.

Jamaica’s per-capita ratio, however, is far lower than most Caribbean countries, such as 820:100,000 in Grenada and 850:100,000 in The Bahamas, which have comparably minimal levels of crime and violence.

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