Mon | May 20, 2019

Orville Taylor | My money is on detectives; not sentries

Published:Sunday | January 27, 2019 | 12:00 AM
What needs to be addressed as we struggle to justify or determine whether we need to give police and soldiers extra-constitutional powers and extend SOEs, is improve policing; not soldiering.

It must take a lot of gall and other things rhymed with it, to think that one can call a police station and make terrorist threats. Now, although there might be no reason to believe that they will cash in on the threat, the police cannot take any check and must act swiftly to deter it and apprehend the perpetrator.

Persons still unknown, in a desperate attempt to procure the release of a suspected gang leader, promised to kill one Manchester resident daily until/unless he is released.

It capped off a bad week for policing when an inspector was attacked by criminal elements but, thankfully, he was unscathed, with the only thing hurt being his pride and sense of invulnerability.

We were also faced with the embarrassing situation, where an individual, who is believed to be of unsound mind, found his way into a police station. No one knows whether or not he has undergone psychological evaluation to determine his mental status; but that is irrelevant. What is significant is that he was unauthorised, breached security and therefore put the entire station and the public at risk. Thankfully, he was only caught doing point duty and directing traffic. However, it could have gone horribly wrong.

Moreover, the security lapse took place in an adjacent parish in one of the most active towns outside of Kingston. In many senses, the town is a Junction, because it is a less recognised frontier in the internal war against terror. As criminal elements are pushed from areas where there were states of public emergency (SOE), this southern pulse community has many of the attributes which could be attractive to fleeing felons seeking sanctuary. Police negligence or dereliction in these trying times cannot go unpunished.


It is even more bothersome that a district constable attempted to create a diversion by falsely reporting that there was a bomb threat in order to prevent a case that he was involved in being brought to trial. Of course, this stupid ploy blew up in his face and he now faces not only imminent and immediate dismissal, but will also likely join the other criminals, who he managed to pretend he did not belong to.

Of course, I love silver linings and the fact that the hapless DC was caught, tells me that the police have the capacity to not only deal effectively with criminal activity within the organisation but more importantly, that they have major investigative capabilities and are able to detect even the most heinous of crimes.

In fact, not recorded in the statistics is that within a week, the police usually can finger the person or persons who committed major crimes such as shootings and murder.

However, intelligence and information are not evidence. The latter is extremely difficult to obtain when the public is unwilling to step forward, even when arrests are made.

Coming off a second year where we saw a dip in the homicide clear up rate to now just under 50 per cent, something tells me that there is something intangible going on within the ranks of the constabulary.

The duties which showed up the carelessness at the police station is not a core police function, though. Any set of security guards can secure an office or perimeter. Any set of soldiers, green from Newcastle, can perform sentry duty and act as border or door guards.

Therefore, inasmuch as I am totally miffed by the breaching of the station, that shortcoming is something which can be fixed immediately.


What needs to be addressed as we struggle to justify or determine whether we need to give police and soldiers extra-constitutional powers and extend SOEs, is improve policing; not soldiering.

Contrary to the narratives, I am totally confident that with the Jamaica Defence Force giving tactical support to the constabulary, there is absolutely no area of Jamaica that they cannot lock down, control, sweep and extract suspects or fugitives. It matters not whether it is some little hole where you see dogs and cats or the Cockpit country.

We should also note that there is a correlation between good detective work, clear up rate, independence and empowerment of the police officers and homicide rates.

If one examines the data between 2011 and 2016, one will notice that the relatively low homicide rates of between 1,000 and 1,100 between 2014 and 2015 also saw clear up rates of more than 50 per cent. Detectives were inspired and working.

Lock up all the suspects that you want, including those who you feel that you need to hold until you can build a case, but that will not solve anything.

In the period 2007 to 2008, when we faced real threats with more than one police officer being murdered per month, there was no SOE.

In the post 2010 operation in Tivoli, what we saw was not only an attempt to have harder policing but more important, we had a greater thrust on investigation.

Let us spend more of the budget on equipping our detectives, especially the homicide specialists, with the tools they need and watch the result.

- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'. Email feedback to and