New police commissioner encouraging signal
Monster job for a monster problem
The newly appointed Police Commissioner’s vision for policing in Jamaica and vow to make the Jamaica Constabulary Force among the world’s best is favourable news to Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) and the organisation wishes him and his administration sustained success in this crucial task.
“The appointment of Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin is an encouraging signpost in the course of policing and crime fighting in Jamaica,” stated JFJ executive director, Dr. Carolyn Gomes, following a press conference at the Commissioner’s office today. “We appreciate Commissioner Lewin’s candour and his recognising the urgency for an independent course towards institutional reform. We look forward to the leadership, confidence and breadth of experience he brings to the table and to his resolve in waging a united front against the pervasive and monstrous problem of crime and violence in Jamaica.”
The former JDF Chief of Staff outlined a five-point strategy to transforming policing and security in Jamaica where military force is lessoned and the political, commercial, civil and socio-economic and cultural spheres of society are engaged alongside law enforcement. He assumes his post at a critical juncture in the nation’s law enforcement history, facing one of the worst spates of gun violence and death on record. The identification on Wednesday of the four men killed in a police shooting in Westmoreland on the weekend, one of whom was a 14-year-old boy, brings to 259 the number dead this year following police actions. An additional 143 persons were shot and injured. The loss of life of 20 members of the police force is of equal cause for deep regret as are the deaths of over 1500 civilians.
Recent surges in the murder rate, the rate of police killings and the response of the police with increased civilian killings demonstrate clearly that habitual approaches to law enforcement in Jamaica simply do not work. Lewin has signed an anti-corruption plan for the JCF and was clear in articulating that police extra-judicial killings and engaging in any corrupt act “is unacceptable and will be dealt with ruthlessly and swiftly.”
“We need to regain public trust and will change the face and philosophy of policing where the community is served and protected, rights are respected and the rule of law is applied and enforced,” stated Lewin.
Jamaica’s crime and violence problems are not unique, but symptoms of a much greater problem. Social and economic inequity, political and judicial injustices and scant resources are endemic to many nations. International and local experience has shown that building higher walls and using rights-abrogating policing methods are ineffective and inefficient and result in an escalating spiral of violence, retribution, distrust and lawlessness. For Jamaica, this has left a beleaguered nation feeling traumatized and victimized.
“We need to counter the perception that things are so bad that we can’t do anything to change it. Change is never easy, but often necessary, and recognizing the urgency for a change in course in law enforcement is a step in the right direction, and his participation in the strategic review process is a welcome first and we will hold Commissioner accountable in this regard,” added Gomes.
JFJ recognizes the police as the critical first responder and chief purveyor of justice whose responsibility is the protection of Jamaican citizens. Jamaica is guided by a constitutional framework and policing in a democracy requires professional law enforcement that does not infringe on human rights. It also requires a national consensus among government, business and all levels of civil society to accept transformation and help to ensure the police are able to provide high levels of service delivery to the public.
Effective institutional reform of the JCF into the ‘Police Service of Jamaica’, including an audit of current functions, capacity and institutional structure, is one of three pillars of transformation the JFJ believes is tantamount to successfully effecting a productive course for law enforcement that unites, rather than divides, its citizens and police.
A properly resourced and independent investigative agency and strengthening accountability mechanisms of the police by fortifying the Police Services Commission are additional reform mechanisms recommended by JFJ for simultaneous implementation – recommendations that have been made from as far back as the 1994 Wolfe Report.
Rear Admiral Lewin’s commitment to all Jamaican citizens to protect the interests and rights of the long-suffering citizens of Jamaica is an astute and noble vision for improving public safety and critical for creating a peaceful and inviting country in which to live.
For further information:
Dr. Carolyn Gomes – 755-4524-6/382-8583