We Don’t Need a Knight in Shining Armour, We Need a Team

January 31st, 2018

I have been following the ongoing debate over the outgoing Commissioner of Police George Quallo and his alleged failings; and about what kind of person should be selected to replace him. Should it be someone from outside the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF)? A foreigner, perhaps? A Jamaica Defence Force officer? Should it be an experienced man/woman who has risen through the ranks, or a young graduate who can shake things up? What are the criteria, the required qualifications for this position? What is the process for selection (the Police Service Commission is quite opaque)?

Mr. George Fitzroy Quallo will step down on February 1, 2018 after nine months in the post of Commissioner.

Mr. George Fitzroy Quallo will step down on February 1, 2018 after nine months in the post of Commissioner.

There is no doubt in many people’s minds (including my own) that the JCF is desperately in need of reform. One could say, quite bluntly, that it needs cleaning up, from top to bottom. The rather drastic word “purge” comes to mind. How to go about this is a different matter. Numerous reports – both local and international – have pointed to corruption in the police force. The latest U.S. State Department International Narcotics Control Report (INCSR), for example, refers to “corruption and a culture of unaccountability” in Jamaica’s justice system; and elsewhere mentions “police and government corruption” – noting specifically: “The Jamaican police have suffered from decades of endemic corruption…” This language has hardly varied for the past ten or twenty years, to my knowledge.

Our governments, over the years, have read these annual reports that repeat the same mantra. Moreover, our governments have commissioned and have had several detailed (and quite costly) reports land on their desks – thick reports, with pages of recommendations. Most recently, there was the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) report on Crime and Violence in Jamaica, authored by Professor Anthony Harriott and Marlyn Jones in 2016. Going much further back, there was the 1993 National Task Force on Crime Report (the Wolfe Report). There was the report of the JCF Strategic Review Panel from the Ministry of National Security, optimistically titled A New Era of Policing in Jamaica: Transforming the JCF, produced over ten years ago in 2017. The latter report specifically refers to institutional corruption in the JCF.

And this is to name but three.

Former Chief Justice Lensley Wolfe was author of the extensive Wolfe Report of 1993.

Former Chief Justice Lensley Wolfe was author of the extensive Wolfe Report of 1993.

Were any of these reports taken seriously, and how many of the recommendations therein have been implemented? Are we now in the “New Era”? If we are not, should we not be taking many of these suggestions into account, by now? Why do we feel as if we are back at “Square One”?

Ah, but that is a matter for another discussion, I believe. Perhaps the “One Man/Woman Syndrome” is partly to blame. May I suggest, however, that this is not simply a question of appointing “the right man/woman for the job.” Whatever the shortcomings of the Police Service Commission, the focus should be on building a team. Not a “Messiah” or aSaviour.” Not a “Reneto Adams” or a “JDF Man.” 

Of course, leadership is critical; but a good leader has to build and depend on his team. In my view, the JCF would greatly benefit from a core group of individuals – three or four – not necessarily a hierarchy per se, but if you like a “task force” (oh, but politicians love that word!) Each individual would have a different role to play. They would meet at least once per week, and keep in touch on a daily basis, constantly strategising and re-strategising (policing seems to me to be a fairly fluid business).

We love these expressions like “One Don,” or (in the case of poor Mr. Quallo) “The Man in the Hot Seat.” The media, and the public in general, throw everything at the feet of that one person. What we need, however, is sustainability: whoever takes over should concentrate on building a reliable, efficient and trustworthy Police Service – for the future. Forget about being “The Man/Woman of the Moment,” shouldering the burden, fighting the crime monster (and other clichés), as much of our mainstream media would have it.

Yes, of course one man can make a difference. However, the essence of leadership is about empowering those around you. We don’t have to find a genius (or, as the President of the U.S. would say, a “stable genius”). A leader can never encapsulate all the amazing qualities of a Knight in Shining Armour. As the saying goes:

“True leaders don’t create followers. They create more leaders.”

 

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One Response to “We Don’t Need a Knight in Shining Armour, We Need a Team”

  1. […] the media on the role of the Police Service Commission, who should replace Mr. Quallo, etc., etc. I wrote about it all in my Gleaner blog here. Can we get away from the “Messiah” syndrome? And people, the […]