The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) on May 29, 2008 demanded that the Government share with the country its approach to curb the escalating crime wave. I have been stirred by Prime Minster Golding’s response of referring development of Jamaica’s crime plan to the Commissioner of Police. The Prime Minister cites the amendment to Section 2 of the Jamaica Constabulary Force Act to argue that the police have total control over operational matters!
My view is that Jamaica’s crime problem is not an operational matter… for Jamaicans on the island and overseas, the crime problem in Jamaica is more akin to social degradation of our Island home. With respect, it is therefore disingenuous for the Prime Minister to seek to wash his hands of Jamaica’s most pressing problem at home and on the international scene, on the basis of an implicit argument that the Government has fulfilled its duties by telling the police what needs to be done and then paying them out of government revenue.
The Prime Minister is reported to have said it was the job of his administration [only] to provide leadership, policy direction and the resources needed to fight crime. But, what about the social causes of crime? Once a person chooses a life of crime, our society has already lost. The sense of national pride and social values we as a nation would seek to instil in our young minds cannot be delegated to a police force – regardless of how, honest, professional and above reproach such a police force may be. We therefore expect our Government to have regard to the bigger picture – from the root up.
In civilized society the police are there essentially as keepers of the peace and as a safety net against criminals, but it is asking too much of our Jamaican police force to expect them alone to resolve Jamaica’s crime problem. Without corrective social engineering, which can only be orchestrated by constructive governance, the police’s problem of fighting violent criminals will be as infinite as cutting back perennial weed grass.
If the Prime Minister’s position on this point is correct, then Jamaica’s spiralling crime problem will, by political default, soon be put down to increasingly inefficient policing. The real causes, such as lack of employment opportunities for young men, a deteriorating family structure, misguided social values of a generation and failed priority on the part of our elected leaders will be purposely overlooked.
During the September 2007 general election campaign the issue of Jamaica’s crime problem featured as an important and fundamental issue; Jamaicans at home and overseas required that any new Government should actively tackle the country’s crime problem.
If Jamaica’s crime plan is left to the police, who are themselves under-funded and now outgunned (even for operational matters), taken together with the recent flash changes within the office of the Ministry of National Security, then law-abiding Jamaicans everywhere should have cause for further despair of Jamaica’s future.
These developments beggars the question; having landed the hot seat of power, on crime, is the present Government now just grappling for ideas on this crucial issue, or worse still, has it already conceded that it cannot tame or bring under control Jamaica’s most significant nemesis – and so delegated its entire cause and effect management to the police force.
At this time the Jamaican diaspora need answers, Jamaica needs prudent leadership, and the people of Jamaica need to be advised by its political leaders on the direction the country is being steered on the important issue of tackling crime.
Hamilton Daley is a practising Attorney-at-Law in Jamaica and Solicitor Advocate in England.