The fight against dangerous criminals and the harm they do to society is an all hands on deck affair. Tragically, and to the detriment of the country, this effort has been seen as purely a policing issue in Jamaica.
The (infama fi ded), [informer should die] mantra is a testament of the side that pop culture has taken in this fight, personified and exemplified in the dancehalls.
The average Jamaican citizen was not always opposed to giving information to the authorities which would aid in the apprehension of dangerous criminals. However, as the culture shifted, and corruption and criminality became more mainstream, soo too has citizens balked at providing information to the authorities.
The tragedy inherent in Jamaica’s case, and I daresay in other areas of the Caribbean, is that there are stubborn residual vestiges of the colonial past which refuses to let go of old habits and thinking.
In the case of Trinidad and Tobago for example, though the nation moved toward self-autonomy and officially became a republic on August 1st, 1976, some of the old thinking still remains as I will get to later.
In Jamaica, one of the most intransigent stumbling block to dealing effectively with the scourge of criminality as it has been in Trinidad and Tobago, has been a Judiciary which is hell-bent on acting as a social workforce.
Nowhere is the judiciary more adamant that it is important to have an independent judiciary than in Jamaica.
However, the local judiciary seems to believe that independence is synonymous with, answerable to no one.
When the judiciary, like the elected government, begins to, or has acted in a way that is antithetical to the good of the country, then it becomes necessary to change the way they are allowed to operate.
We do that by codifying into law certain changes to the latitude that was allowed the judiciary, (eg) truth in sentencing.
This means that whatever sentence was handed down at trial for violent offenders is what they serve.
We also should codify into law the sentences which should be handed down for certain violent categories of crimes.
Bail should also be revisited as it relates to violent offenders who maim and kill.
It is brain-dead and profusely ignorant to argue about guarantees within a constitution written over 57) years ago, when most of the issues affecting us today did not exist then.
The core issue of (Bail) or whether courts grant them, are critical to the criminal justice system, and to law enforcement.
If bail is granted arbitrarily as it has been in Jamaica’s case, it endangers witnesses, destroys prosecutors cases, frustrates investigators, and ultimately thwarts the process of justice.
None of which seems to make any difference to the Jamaican judiciary and their chief cheer-leaders in the criminal defense profession.
And so the [people’s case], as all cases are, it becomes solely the prerogative of the police and a few dedicated prosecutors to protect the people’s interest.
Jamaican judges seem to feel no obligation to the [people] who pay their salaries, or about the detrimental consequences of their individual and collective actions on the society.
Though Trinidad & Tobago’s population is roughly half of Jamaica’s, and though Trinidad is arguably a rich country, with oil and gas deposits and a vibrant manufacturing sector. The country over the last two decades or so has been plagued with a serious gang problem.
Murders have moved from roughly one hundred per year to over five-hundred per year.
An over four hundred percent increase in just fifteen years.
As it is in Jamaica many of the characteristics which factor into the existence and enhancement of this crisis are the same.
Corrupt politicians who funnel money to their cohorts for government projects. Warring gangs fighting for turf. The gangs get their power from dirty politicians for whom they do favors, and are rewarded with lucrative government contracts.
Additionally, Trinidad and Tobago are only seven miles from Venezuela a major drug trans-shipment hub of drugs from Colombia to West Africa and other destinations.
The similarities between Jamaica and Trinidad are almost surreal. in Trinidad, as in Jamaica, entire communities live in fear, in some instances, homes are abandoned, others are set on fire, and even others are pot-marked with bullet holes as rival gangs duel it out against each other.
Activists argue that the rot is not outside the power of the government to stop the madness, they say the security measures and laws are not enough to make a difference.
The brunt of the pressure is on the Police department, a force which has been.….….….….….….….….get this, accused of extra-judicial killings, and overly aggressive tactics.
These are the exact bullet points used in Jamaica, ( a)demonize the police and (b) get on with the business of corrupt governance. Because of course, the population is too dunce on the one hand, and too pretentious on the other to understand it.
Enter Trinidad’s police Commissioner Gary Griffiths, a former military captain, former national security adviser, former minister of national security.
The résumé of commissioner Griffiths reads almost verbatim like that of Jamaica’s Antony Anderson.
Griffith’s résumé details that he received a Meritorious medal for duties performed during the 1990 attempted coup in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
A leader who is unafraid to step in the mud and take the criticisms of the know-nothing Monday morning quarterbacks, who criticizes everything, but has contributed nothing.
And maybe that is the difference between Griffiths and Jamaican police commissioners past and present…
Griffiths is unafraid, undeterred or unbowed by the corrupt politicians in his country. He is unmoved by the criminal lawyers, who he labels [lawyer-criminals], who are active cheer-leaders to the judges and magistrates who return the dangerous criminals to the streets as soon as the police arrest them.
In blasting a magistrate who recently released a gangster arrested with multiple illegal weapons, commissioner Griffiths alluded to the rights and duty of lawyers to defend their clients.
Nevertheless, he poignantly assailed the lawyer-criminals who operate outside the laws, all while doing so as officers of the courts.
This has been the tradecraft of Jamaica’s criminal lawyers, or should I say Jamaica’s [lawyer-criminas] as well?
Griffiths pulled no punches in responding to a reporter’s question about lawyers who on television questioned his right to speak out against the magistrate.
This is the kind of prehistoric medieval wall, that Caribbean magistrates and judges operate under as public servants, not elected by the people, but with a belief that they are immune from criticisms. In Jamaica, this nonsensical notion exists on steroids.
However, if you take a salary from the public, you are not immune to, or shielded from questions and accountability to the public.
Judges across the region are quick to say they cannot respond to the criticisms leveled against them, but they are quite happy to have the criminal lawyers who benefit from their abuse of the process defend them in the media pro-bono.
One of the differences of the Trinidadian system from Jamaica’s, is that the police services in their republican democracy are not subjugated to, or answerable to the Ministry of national security, and by extension the ruling political party.
It is that independence that allows Gary Griffiths to speak and operate with such confidence and autonomy as opposed to Jamaica’s little puppet police leadership, which are shit scared of the dirty politicians and their supporters who are still stuck in the colonialist mindset.
Gary Griffiths alluded to receiving daily death threats, he does not seem to mind them, he has a task to complete. The noise from the peanut gallery of well-connected criminals in high places Griffiths brushes aside, and warned, no one is above the law.
Jamaica’s officials are far too compromised and conflicted with process and form, to matter in this existential fight.
Gary Griffiths gets it.
Mike Beckles is a former Jamaican police Detective corporal, a business owner, avid researcher, and blogger.
He is a black achiever honoree, and publisher of the blog chatt-a-box.com.
He’s also a contributor to several websites.
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