The recent rally entitled Side by Side We Stand was focused on the appalling annual murder rate, with particular reference to the murders of women and children. The stimulus for the rally was the murder of Shannon Banfield found dead in a Charlotte Street store.
The appearance at the rally of the Minister of National Security Mr Edmund Dillon, a retired Army officer, grabbed the headlines because his remarks displeased the crowd and were met with chants of “Do Your Job.”
For more than a decade, in this column, I have set out the matters fuelling violent crime and the job to be done. The authorities have routinely left us vulnerable to being random victims, or burdened with grief from the killing of others, and too scared to go out at night or to stay out beyond self-imposed curfews.
Pathetic policing is a major part of the problem. The perceived deterrent effect of the law, namely getting caught, has been almost completely eroded. Nevertheless, the authorities consistently seek to dilute dissatisfaction about this deficiency.
Dillon has reportedly embraced the mantra of the Acting Commissioner of Police that the police can only deal effectively with crime if we help them by intervening in the dysfunctional aspects of our society, in which, in the words of the current Prime Minister, “we are breeding monsters.”
The way it has most recently been put is that law enforcement is at the end of a spectrum at the beginning of which were the things that shape the minds and influence the behaviour of young citizens and lead them into “criminality.”
That may well be so as a general proposition, but it evades several important crucial realities, such as the erosion of the deterrent effect of the law. Regardless of the shortcomings of parents and others, the detection rate is pathetic and we, the citizens cannot do the work of the police or the thoroughly discredited criminal justice system.
Secondly, there is no doubt that prevailing socio-economic living conditions, un-remediated even in times of economic boom, have rendered our society angry and brutal and more inclined to anti-social and criminal ways of life.
However, the responsibility for the lack of any coherent and enlightened social development strategy and the lack of objective justice is entirely the fault of successive Governments, who govern mainly by reference to a distribution of spoils from the national cash register, principally through the juicy state enterprise sector.
Regarding the lack of objective justice and pervasive race and class inequalities, a stunning example arose out of the continuing outcry about the abuse of fireworks, which peaked as it usually does during Christmas time.
When the weaknesses of governance and infrastructure are exposed in dramatic circumstances, like the Shannon murder or the blowing off of a limb from a scratch bomb, there are knee jerk reactions and out comes our old friend “zero tolerance.”
This is a concept applied selectively. When a downtown vendor was hauled off by the police for allegedly offering for sale illegal explosive devices in the full view of television cameras, I would like to have seen a few residents in well to do areas hauled off in similar fashion for setting off fireworks in towns or within sixty feet of streets outside of the defined towns.
Now to be fair to any Minister of National Security, he cannot do the police work either, so what is the job he must do? Or, put another way, what is the job the the Ministry has been failing to do?
The first is the failure to consult on and bring before Parliament new constitutional arrangements for the management and operation of the Police Service. These new arrangements must not only have effective policing as their objective. They must target corruption.
As indicated in last week’s column, the existence of the rogue element in the police service is well documented since 1991.
A useful source of information is the work of Guyana-born internationally recognised scholar and consultant, Professor Ivelaw Griffith. He and many others have delineated the overwhelming danger of the drug trade, its infinite capacity to corrupt and the attendant political consequences.
In a 1997 article in the Penn State International Law Review, Professor Griffith deals with the police protection given to drug dealers. He quotes from the findings of Scotland Yard on the self perpetuating rogue elements in our police service, which “use rank to frustrate honest police action and to grant concessions.”
The National Security Ministry along with the office of the Attorney General must establish a policy, codes of conduct and legislation effective to deal with this rogue element concomitantly with campaign finance sources, resistance to lavish hospitality and freeness and the role of “the big fish” in all of this.
Do the job. Apply zero tolerance to all of the above. Anything less, including cosmetic retirements, you spinning top in mud.