Commissioner Owen Ellington
October of 1991 saw me walking away from the Jamaica Constabulary Force after serving a mere 10 years . I really loved my job I thought I could a make a difference in people’s lives. Making that difference meant protecting and serving in the traditionally understood sense, but anyone familiar with policing in Jamaica knows it requires much more than those narrowly defined characteristics.
A Jamaican Police Officer is required to be a counselor,mediator, tire changer, and pretty much everything to include being a gopher. A low-ranking employee who is made to do the bidding of their superiors. So-
The Constabulary has subsequently been viewed with suspicion by the poorer class who are largely of African ancestry. The Constabulary though viewed with suspicion by the underclass, was not populated by Martians[sic], to this day the police force is populated with the children of the poorest most humble of our people, largely from rural parishes. Jamaicans, of a lighter skin tone , and a little money would absolutely not condone their kids becoming a police office. In other Jurisdictions being a police officer is a respectable job, not so in Jamaica, many people say “well the police have basically caused it on themselves”, there is some truth to that , God knows some of the people who have come and gone and are still a part of the Agency are of the worst kind. Despite that I fundamentally believe the best people leave early and the others remain. There is hardly any other explanation for the high attrition rate of officers from the JCF.
As a young police officer I was put off by the upper crust, time and again, when they asked me ” why are you in the police force”?,The questions came despite them having called us to their homes to investigate one thing or another. The irony inherent, was that though they wanted their issue dealt with expeditiously and professionally, they fundamentally believed Jamaican police officers should not or certainly could never be intelligent or be equal to them intellectually.
I wish I had a dollar for each time, as a young detective stationed at the Constant CIB, that an upper Saint Andrew resident asked me “where were you trained’? In as much as they felt they were complimenting me for some perceived difference between me and some of my colleagues, it also created a certain disdain within me, for what I perceived to be a burjouis sense of faux aristocracy. It made me angry and disdainful of them, contrary to what many of the poorest people felt, many officers preferred them to the self-aggrandizing, pseudo intellectual left-over aristocrats many of whom had darker skin that we had.
The police Department has survived despite a phalanx of forces arrayed against it. From my perspective, a Police Force, any Police force would do precious little more than survive in Jamaica. I am sure you will be anxious to know what the hell I’m talking about here? Think about this.
•A police department formed to protect the rich from the poor masses:
•An emerging Cult (Rastafarian’s) opposed to the natural order, and by extension the police, which worships a false God Haile Selassie a man who allowed his people to starve while he fed the best foods to his pet lions:
•A political class which wants acrimony between the poor and the police for their own selfish reasons:
•A Monied class which sees itself above the laws:
•A general disdain for the rule of law by a large group of the population:
Those by themselves would be a perfect brew, enough to make any police force incapable of performing it’s mandate, only those are not the extent of the challenges the police faces. There are secondary issues like Political interference, lack of funding for police stations, vehicles, training, protective gear, armament,criminal agitation from groups posing as legitimate Human Rights Groups,an unruly population and probably the most fundamental tool a police department or a people needs, tough legislation that puts criminals in Jail and keep them there.
At the core of Jamaica’s present crime problem lies the issue of the bourgeoisie, and the newly educated blacks( never si cum si) that they are above being spoken to by police. This does not mean that they necessarily see themselves as above the laws, they resent being policed by people they seriously believe are beneath them.
Some of the worst among offenders are those coming from the grass-roots who managed to claw their way from the clutches of abject poverty to respectability. Many are Lawyers, to date some of the most celebrated and prominent Defense Attorneys are blacks who have been liberated from poverty through gritty diligence and hard work by their parents. Unfortunately many still keep the street mentality and physical ties to the criminal underworld, even though they will not hesitate to tell you they are officers of the court.
Supreme Court Kingston Jamaica:
The Same is true of the country’s Judges, as a law enforcement officer during the 90’s I must say that with only a few exception, I had a healthy respect for Judges, in my judgement many seemed to understand the serious task they are given and the degree to which society’s stability rests with them. Even though I perceived that they were largely too liberal . I was also mindful that they are constrained by outdated and archaic laws. In my 31 years living in Jamaica I never thought that the country’s judges were corrupt, some were arrogant some liberal but not corrupt. I cannot say I still feel that way.
Jamaica’s Judiciary may still be among the least corrupt group in the country but not all judges are honest players.
The powers who created the police force understood the need for the most bang for their buck , they knew exactly how to strike the delicate balance between a lot of black men with guns and the power to use them, and having a buffer between them and those men. They wanted the police to protect them and their property from the marauding masses, but they also needed to keep a certain degree of control, so they employed the strategy of “divide and conquer”.
Officers from the rank of constable to Inspector are lumped together, they are the guys who do the heavy lifting, they take pretty much all the risks. Then there is the gazetted ranks, from Deputy Superintendent to commissioner, these people are told they are civil servants, they certainly are not treated or paid like civil servants, but they are the ones who make sure the dictates of the monied interests are maintained. Politicians and others coming into positions of authority from the ground up, maintained that control even after the white plantation owners had died out or had long left for England.
The khaki-clad crew generally acquired their rank through long-service, Political ties, licking boots, and in the minority cases through intelligence and merit. I do admit that over the last few years the Constabulary has made attempts to recruit a smarter cadre of people to the gazetted corps. The problem with that strategy however, is that the quality of the people who interact with the public on the streets seem to stay the same, or as some would argue, has gotten worse. The impact of political manipulation cannot be denied or overstated, the fallout has helped to ensure the present level of crime today. Many people who passed through the doors of the JCF will readily tell you that they left because they were not being effective. An idealistic police constable suffers transfer, have their records sullied and worse for doing their job. The gazetted ranks have been the bain of the department, contrary to what many people believe, shit does not flow up-stream. The rank and file of the police department leave the Academy wanting to do the right thing. The behavior of the senior officers are responsible for the change in their attitudes and behavior.
It’s rather difficult for a constable to have respect for his job or commanding officer, if he or she is an intelligent person who sees that commanding officer as a lap dog to some filthy politician, or some other undesirable. He or she will not accept discipline or direction from that officer. Senior officers have colluded with politicians to transfer good hard-working cops who play by the rules and uphold the laws. How do I know? I was transferred for something which happened on a night when I was off duty, never mind that that act was legal above board police work………… and I wasn’t there.
A Deputy commissioner and a politician had me transferred until the people I served found out what transpired and all hell broke loose. Yes people actually demonstrated on behalf of good cops. That Politician is still actively engaged in politics as we speak, the lap-dog Deputy commissioner has retired from the department.
Twenty two years after I left the department, despite all the efforts at modernization, the police department is still embarrassingly and woefully inept at conducting the simplest investigation to put a low down scum bag in prison.
Klans Man Leader Tesha Miller:
Nowhere is this more evident than the recent release of Spanish Town Terror group leader, Tesha Miller the leader of the Klan’s Man Gang, affiliated to the ruling People’s National Party. Miller was sentenced to prison for a series of felonies , including shooting at Police Officers. In Jamaica all you need is an appeal to the higher Court with some lie or point to some technicality , real or percied, you are almost guaranteed a reversal of the lower court’s decision.
This either means the Magistrates are nincom poops, or the Judges are being paid to release criminals back onto the streets
Criminal Defense Lawyer Bert Samuels:
There may be legitimate legal reasons why the Miller verdict was overturned. There may be reasons why any appeals court may look at the arguments raised by an astute and competent defense team in any case. This case is not the exception it is the rule, a Magistrate rules and the appeals court reverses the lower court. The Jamaican people and the cause of justice is not being served when criminals walk free, blue or white collar.
This case is just another nail in the coffin of the Jamaican justice system, everyone knows how bad it is. Only 5% of criminals are actually held responsible for their crimes, irrespective of the severity or frequency. It is a slap in the face of the people when the same judges go back and overturn decisions within that measly and meager 5%. Our country is fast becoming a failed state, a place where it is safe for no one to live. I would bet that all of the judges have American green cards, much like their political counterparts.
Miller’s always available criminal defense lawyer the omnipresent Bert Samuels was quick to point out that his client did not beat the rap on a technicality, but pointed to what he sees as a plethora of inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case. Not unusual for Jamaica’s lawyers to pontificate, but what Samuels argument points to , as far as he is concerned is, incompetence on the part of the Police, prosecutor, and trial Magistrate.
It is not unusual for airtight cases to be revisited by higher courts in Jamaica and overturned years later, even after justly convicted criminals have been convicted and are serving their sentences. This usually happens with high-profile gangsters who can afford to pay high-priced unscrupulous lawyers to wrangle them from the clutches of the law. In Jamaica that is pretty easy, most judges are quite happy to oblige.
This does not absolve the police from blame however. How difficult is it to prepare a case of Robbery with Aggravation and shooting with intent ? It”s 2013 and still Jamaica’s cops continue to be the laughing-stock of the country, resorting simply to brute force, seemingly incapable of much else. It has become a source of embarrassment to see simple cases thrown out for bad police work or shoddy prosecution. No doubt the country will pay dearly for this.
Whether money is changing hands or not we have no proof, ………..not yet, but it’s important to note, another dangerous criminal was returned to the streets by Jamaica’s criminal loving judges.
As long as Jamaica’s criminal Justice System is so unjust to the innocent and the powerless, we will continue to see the Police screw up cases. They will have to continue bringing justice to criminals, rather than bringing criminals to justice.