Bryan Sykes Barking Up The Wrong Tree…

Last week Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Justice Bryan Sykes berat­ed the Police for what he sees as a per­pet­u­al prob­lem of inef­fi­cien­cy and tar­di­ness.
Chief Justice Sykes was speak­ing specif­i­cal­ly of what he con­strued to be the tar­di­ness of police wit­ness­es to turn up for hear­ings and give tes­ti­mo­ny in cas­es before the courts.

“I can’t under­stand how the police keep the same lev­el of inef­fi­cien­cy day in, day out, year in, year out.”
“From I start­ed work­ing in the sys­tem it has been the same issues every sin­gle day. They are late, more often than not. The court has­n’t moved, the places haven’t moved, and they can’t be in place. Thirty years, and when I talk peo­ple get upset. This does not require spe­cial genius, all it requires is com­mon sense.

Oh boy, I have known Byran Sykes from the late 80s when he was a low-lev­el clerk of the Courts at Half Way Tree, he was a rather soft-spo­ken unas­sum­ing man, who made mis­takes like the rest of us.
Sykes did not stand out enough then, to war­rant atten­tion as a man who was enthu­si­as­tic about pros­e­cut­ing crim­i­nals.
Simply put, Byran Sykes was a reg­u­lar cog in the slow inef­fi­cient wheel of jus­tice at the time, noth­ing more noth­ing less.

With that said, the police depart­ment like every pub­lic sec­tor body, has its own share of dead­wood. If Chief Justice Sykes wish­es to speak the truth he will agree that many of his col­leagues in the judi­cia­ry are mis­fits as well. Some Magistrates and Judges should hard­ly be mag­is­trates and judges in the same way that many cops should nev­er don a police offi­cer’s uni­form.
Chief Justice Sykes blast­ed the police as he wait­ed for a police wit­ness to show up for a case he was hear­ing.

This is real­ly incom­pe­tence of the high­est order. The date for tri­al has been set in excess of sev­er­al months; this is not new. I’ve been sit­ting here for near­ly 70 min­utes now wait­ing for the police to be at the remote loca­tion. That is incom­pe­tence, not even inef­fi­cien­cy. So if the police force can­not, after a hun­dred years, have a con­sta­ble at a remote loca­tion, what else can they do?” 
I do under­stand the frus­tra­tion of the Chief Justice, and to some degree, I sub­scribe to some of his com­ments. On the oth­er hand, I won­der whether or not the learned Chief Justice had both­ered to get one of his aides to find out the rea­son the offi­cer was late?
After all, being a police offi­cer is no easy feat. Being a police offi­cer in Jamaica is dou­bly and triply more dif­fi­cult, than being an offi­cer else­where.

Are we going to do any work or are we going to sit here the whole day? I need to know what the posi­tion is. It is now 10 min­utes to 11. We can’t sit here wait­ing and wait­ing and wait­ing with no end in sight; no wit­ness­es, none here to tes­ti­fy, not one. No court can oper­ate like that, some­thing needs to hap­pen. This is absolute­ly out­ra­geous.” Sykes lament­ed.

I hope the lead­er­ship of the police depart­ment sees these com­ments and for the love of God make a change. Not to bul­ly the peo­ple they super­vise, but to work toward greater effi­cien­cy and com­pe­tence.
As the Chief Justice lament­ed, courts can­not oper­ate with­out wit­ness­es in place. Neither can every­one be avail­able and police offi­cers fail to show. There have to be ways to make police wit­ness­es more avail­able to the courts when they are involved in inves­ti­ga­tions.
A senior pros­e­cu­tor with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, in pro­vid­ing the judge with an update, then said:
I can­not say when they will arrive, but about 15 min­utes ago I was told the wit­ness­es were on the toll road.”
This means that the offi­cer was in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the Prosecutor and was not shirk­ing his oblig­a­tion to be in court.

Said a far-from-pleased Justice Sykes: “So, in oth­er words, we are just going to wait and wait and wait; same occur­rence last week. This is a recur­ring prob­lem and it is not just this court, it is hap­pen­ing across the island.

It hap­pens across the Island because we have one police depart­ment which ser­vices the entire Island.
The JCF which has one of the low­est offi­cers to cit­i­zen ratio in the world is over­worked and under­paid.
The JCF has approx­i­mate­ly 11,000 mem­bers, but los­es about 50 offi­cers each month to attri­tion. That fig­ure does not rep­re­sent peo­ple who are retir­ing.
According to a 2012 study by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) of sev­en Caribbean coun­tries, includ­ing Jamaica, the ratio of police offi­cers to civil­ians in Jamaica was 1 offi­cer per 273 inhab­i­tants, which was the low­est police pres­ence per capi­ta of the sev­en Caribbean coun­tries sur­veyed (UN 2012, 95)

Let that sink in mis­ter Chief Justice.
It seems to me that you are bark­ing up the wrong tree here.
At 10:58 am, a court offi­cer indi­cat­ed to pros­e­cu­tors that the wit­ness­es were in the park­ing lot.
At 11:04 am the first wit­ness was called.

The fact that the force is so short-staffed and over­worked as a result of nor­mal duties, State of Emergencies and hav­ing to man Zones Of Special Operations, is no small mat­ter.
I have no inter­est in mak­ing excus­es for the Constabulary, but those who work with­in the sys­tem must under­stand the lim­i­ta­tions of the sys­tem.
Chief Justice Sykes is frus­trat­ed, there is noth­ing wrong with that, but the Police are also frus­trat­ed with Chief Justice Sykes’ col­leagues turn­ing loose the crim­i­nals they arrest and bring before the courts.
His col­leagues com­mit gross mal­prac­tice dai­ly across the coun­try, under the guise that the bail act forces then to let loose vio­lent offend­ers, and that they have a duty to try to reform vio­lent mur­der­ers.
The Chief Justice (a good man I sup­pose), but he should pay atten­tion to his dirty yard, before he crit­i­cizes his neigh­bor’s yard.
Violent mur­der­ers are giv­en bail up to six times, killing each time they are giv­en bail, arrest­ed and giv­en bail by Sykes’ moral­ly bank­rupt col­leagues.

Police offi­cers who inter­act with crime gen­er­al­ly come from a small pool of over­worked offi­cers bear­ing the title “Detective”. At every scene of crime it is the very same peo­ple (in the par­tic­u­lar divi­sion) that a crim­i­nal act is com­mit­ted who shows up.
Generally, those Detectives han­dle an inor­di­nate amount of cas­es which puts them under severe pres­sure to cope. This lim­its the qual­i­ty of their work, it influ­ences their abil­i­ty to show up to court on time. It also affects their fam­i­ly life, some­thing the nation and Chief Justice Sykes does not con­sid­er.
Jamaica is not a devel­oped coun­try, as such Sykes’ fight is not with the police depart­ment, it ought to be with Government.
Sykes can­not be a bul­ly and take his frus­tra­tions out on the weak­est link.
He either knows that these issues exist or he is sim­ply pon­tif­i­cat­ing for the media.

Many years ago, a bul­ly, Lensley Wolfe, who was on the high court, was hear­ing a case in which I was the Detective han­dling the case.
I arrived at the Gun court five min­utes after the case was called and Wolfe lit into me.
I am sure he believed that the fact that most Jamaicans call them [mi lord] clown suit and all, I was intim­i­dat­ed, or afraid of him.
As he began to berate me for being late. He could not both­er to call me up to speak to me respect­ful­ly. Nah he was the mighty Judge and I was a mere foot-sol­dier cop.
I stopped him dead in his tracks, “stop”! I told him.
I am not the pris­on­er in the dock, if you were a judge of any stature that is where your ire should be direct­ed not at me”.
I am no intim­i­dat­ed by you”, I told him.
He com­menced argu­ing in typ­i­cal infan­tile bul­ly-like fash­ion. “I am not afraid of your Federation”. I laughed in his face and informed him that I did not care about the Federation either, but I thought that the Privy Council may have some­thing to say about his igno­rance.

All of the offi­cers in the court­room ran out­side, hands on their heads, nev­er in their life­time had an offi­cer so dressed down an igno­rant judge.
Lensley Wolfe was known as a dis­re­spect­ful bul­ly, many offi­cers were afraid of him. I guess that may have played a part in my desire to bust him down to size, bloody his nose.
I doubt that he ever tried to dis­re­spect an offi­cer after that inci­dent.
On that occa­sion in ques­tion, I had worked from 7:45 am to 1:00pm the pre­vi­ous day, then resumed duties at 6:00pm, worked all through the night until 8:00 am on the morn­ing of our clash.

I then went home to take a show­er, (remem­ber no sleep), got dressed, then stop at the Half-Way Tree Court’s office to sub­mit charg­ing infor­ma­tion in anoth­er case.
Since the Gun court was a high­er court than Half-Way-Tree Magistrates court, I had to be absent from Half-Way-Tree court in order to attend the Gun Court, and God for­bid be five min­utes late.
My trav­els to court were in my pri­vate car, I received not a sin­gle pen­ny from the Government for the extra hours I put in or for gas for my car.
Exhausted, I was not about to take no shit from a pompous fool in a clown cos­tume.

Chief Justice Sykes occu­pies a dis­tin­guished and ele­vat­ed office from which he can, and should, use his influ­ence to effect change.
Nevertheless, as the Rt Honorable Robert Nesta Marley said ” wid di abun­dance of wata di fool still ded fi turs”, with all the pow­ers at his dis­pos­al, if the chief jus­tice does not know how to use it, it is still pow­er in the hands of a fool.

Mike Beckles is a for­mer Jamaican police Detective cor­po­ral, busi­ness­man, 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.
You may sub­scribe to his blogs free of charge, or sub­scribe to his Youtube chan­nel @chatt-a-box, for the lat­est pod­cast all free to you of course.