The police must work to earn the people’s trust

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The problem is, some officers put more stock in their title instead of their duty. Yes, your job title is police. But your duty is to protect and serve. — Janelle Gray

 

One of the biggest hindrances to successful crime-fighting techniques in our nation is mistrust of the police by our citizens. Research has shown that our Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is not trusted by most Jamaicans. The levels of trust in the police are extremely low. This makes policing more difficult in the long run.

When police officers act inappropriately and unjustly in their apprehension of citizens, trust is lost. Before you say ‘who cares’, we must realise that the police need as many law-abiding citizens as possible trusting them. This makes police work a lot easier, as such citizens become an extension of the arm of the law.

Two recent incidents graphically highlight how negative police action erodes trust, breeds animosity, and exposes the ingrained attitudes of injustice that have engulfed the society. Where the ‘trust killer’ injustice reigns, crime, violence, corruption, and all forms of social ills will inevitably multiply to a society’s destruction. In one instance, it looms for the disadvantaged, and the other the advantaged, showing that injustice knows no bounds if allowed to flourish.

 

#1: Abrahams vs police

A social media video recently went viral showing some Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) members wickedly degrading and abusing a Denham Town citizen, Romaine Abrahams. The man, in an interview later, claimed that he was a working citizen and could not understand why the police opted to treat him like a criminal or murderer. The Jamaica Observer reported one resident, in response to the incident, as saying: “This is not the first time men who call themselves police come in this same ghetto and senselessly beat people. The next time they will kill somebody.”

Abrahams and his family and friends, after experiencing and seeing how the JCF apprehended him, will probably need serious counselling if they are to regain trust and love for the police in general, and those officers in particular, who degraded Romaine while arresting him.

He claims that from the moment his mother opened the door of their home he was draped by an officer. The video depicting Romaine’s arrest has gone viral. This certainly is not good for the police, as there are those who will watch and vicariously participate in Romaine’s ordeal and also lose trust for the police as a result.

So one would think that all attempts would be made, and increasingly so, by the JCF powers that be to improve the trust level of the citizens for the police. We need effective policing that can produce the kinds of results that contain crime without the abuse of citizens that results in mistrust and, in turn, facilitates crime.

In 2017, research revealed that the JCF had an extremely high number of unresolved cases. This is not surprising. I am positing that one of the reasons the number of cases that cannot be resolved are extremely high is because citizens don’t trust the police and as a result don’t help them with information which could solve some of the unsolved crimes. In addition, corruption is one of the flaws that the public perceives to be a problem in the police force itself; therefore, another reason to lose trust.

Citizens are not treated with respect, dignity, and honour. They do not receive first-class treatment from the JCF. So for the people, especially those in the inner cities interfacing with the police, life is one of abuse, hostility, and disappointment. Even those who have to deal with the police in a traffic situation testify of experiencing abuse.

If not transformed, it will be entrenched as normal across the society. I contend it is wrong and no citizen should be treated anything less than first class in the new Jamaica.

With this state of affairs, all efforts should be made to reverse the no-trust trend, not worsen it. This means that there are some things that the police would have to desist from doing, if they desire to change the no-trust perception and to create a new day.

 

#2: Reid & company vs MOCA & FID

I want to suggest also that the manner in which the JCF’s Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA), as the lead agency, handled the Ruel Reid situation certainly does not help to improve the expectation of justice and fairness or equality.

I ask you not to allow your anger and disappointment in what the former minister of education and senator, as well as others, is alleged to have done blind your eyes to the manner in which the arrest was made and the implications for the society. Brute force, deliberately planned embarrassment, humiliation, disrespect, dishonour, and indignity are not to be a part of how any citizen should be treated at any time, for any reason.

Yet, this is the reality that citizens who are poor and dwell in our inner cities have to contend with as almost daily diet. This is what others like myself have relentlessly fought against for decades, but it only worsens.

Because this attitude and negative approach has been allowed for so long, liberty is there in the mind of some members of the police force to apply the strategy of degrading citizens. This instance the strategy was used ‘uptown’, with no consideration of respect, even for those in high offices of leadership. If not addressed, it will be entrenched as normal across the society. I contend it is wrong and no citizen, regardless of their station in life, should be treated anything less than first class in the new Jamaica when being apprehended by our new-era security forces.

It is important to know if the manner in which Ruel Reid and others were arrested is the new approved method. Please, tell us, Security Minister and Police Commissioner. It appears that the strategy to degrade and abuse citizens could well be the new norm.

Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck, in addressing the arrest of Ruel Reid, gave me a moment of pride and joy to hear him mature enough to distinguish between the alleged wrong done by a colleague, to the injustice done to a colleague in the process of apprehending the colleague for the alleged wrong.

Minister Chuck addressed the matter as recorded by Loop News on October 9: “The DPP seems to have had no additional material or evidence, and what seems so unfortunate is that the arrests took place (in a manner that) looks like Nicodemus in the night.”

Of his regrets, he added: “I don’t get the impression that these persons are actually running away. They have made themselves available on all occasions, so in fact if an arrest should have been made, they could easily have been asked to come in so that they could be charged.”

The justice minister for some reason later recanted. But he was spot on in his original concerns.

One is left to conclude that this Nicodemus strategy, as Minister Chuck called it, is either a new approved strategy — therefore the minister had to recant — or perhaps it was just his fear overriding the principle of justice.

It should be crystal clear to everyone that policing which degrades and abuses its citizens undermines our justice system. An environment of injustice deepens every form of criminal activity. All crime is an injustice done by someone to someone. Corruption is injustice to the society, violence is injustice in a society, and if we were to list every kind of offence it would be seen that they all come out of injustice.

This is why we are onto the issue that injustice cannot be a method that is used in any shape or form in crime-fighting. Justice has to take the priority because you can only effectively defeat injustice with justice.

 

The manner of the arrests of both Abrahams in Denham Town and Reid and colleagues is a contradiction of the very reason the JCF, in its own words, says it exists.

  • Take a read of this information pulled from the website of our JCF:
  • The JCF’s mission is to serve, protect and reassure with courtesy, integrity, and respect for the rights of all.
  • The vision of the Jamaica Constabulary is to become a high-quality professional service that is valued and trusted by all the citizens of Jamaica.
  • The Jamaica Constabulary is committed to the quality of its service delivery and the satisfaction of its internal and external customers.

I had thought that the total and simple mission of our JCF was to protect and serve. I had no idea that its mission also included to reassure with courtesy, integrity, and respect for the rights of all.

How does a 5:00 am raid reassure with courtesy and integrity?

How do two left hooks and two solid kicks to the head show a commitment to the quality of its service delivery and the satisfaction of its internal and external customers?

Commissioner Anderson, please do what no other commissioners have done before, and train the JCF in such a way that they are trusted and loved by law-abiding citizens of this Jamaica, land we love.

Copyright © 2019 by Rev Dr. Al Miller.

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