JG - Policing the badlands of Jamaica
Policing the badlands of Jamaica
published: Sunday June 25, 2006
THE BILL Johnson-Gleaner polls said that crime is the biggest concern of Jamaicans. The recent conference of the Jamaica Diaspora confirms that this is true of Jamaicans overseas as well. Seventy-two per cent of Jamaicans at home identified crime and violence as their greatest worry. Jamaicans will feel it to be timely, therefore, that Senior Superintendent Reneto Adams has been reinstated to active duty. So popular a figure is Adams that many Jamaicans have said that the spectacular rise in crime since 2004 is due mainly to the fact that he had been taken off duty that year.
The data is instructive. In the 2003, 1,200 were murdered. This rose to 1,445 in 2004 and 1,650 at the end of 2005.
Anxiety for Adams' return was strong enough to be raised with Minister of National Security, Peter Phillips, at one of his presidential campaign meetings. Since his acquittal, the matter drew the attention of the Public Defender who wanted to know why Adams had not been allowed to return to work.
The official reason for the rise in murders over the past two years has been that Operation Kingfish's success against the cocaine trade had driven criminals to more desperate measures, and its decapitation of gang leaderships had created internal gang feuds. The unofficial explanation though is that because Reneto Adams was taken out of service, killers got much bolder and their extortion rackets flowered. It is even possible that Operation Kingfish and the National Crime Plan have been succeeding because they have adopted Adams' own methods that include community policing and stronger intelligence, albeit with belated international help. The reduction of the murder rate has been averaging over 20 per cent a month since the start of the year, a sign of this success.
Maybe that rate of reduction can get even better. The best way that Jamaicans can welcome back Reneto Adams is to use his direct lines (978-3371 and 404-4384) as he has asked. Since public trust in the police is vital, public cooperation is crucial and the public has the best intelligence on criminals in the communities, Mr. Adams is probably in the best place police intelligence to be effective.
Intelligence work is now a priority in crime fighting in Jamaica, which makes his work front-line duty. We must not equate the front-line with being on the streets. Mr. Adams is now a part of the 'brains' of policing. The public should flood SSP Adams with information and he in turn must make sure that he has the staff and channels through which to make that information operationally effective. If he does not get the support he needs, he should say so and let the public back him.
Jamaica's Public Defender, who brought pressure to ensure Adams' return to service, must now see to it that there is no discriminatory treatment by countries denying him a visa. After all, this undermines his right to travel, collect and share intelligence with police forces in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. It is acknowledged as government policy that intelligence sharing is a central part of the fight against international crime.
ADAMS AND JAMAICAN POLICING
Just before its critics managed to get the Crime Management Unit disbanded, a Stone poll showed that 68 per cent of Jamaicans supported it. When Adams was in charge of Spanish Town the criminals kept quiet. Since 2004, they have turned the town upside down. When Eastern Kingston gangs had established control of the strategic route to the Norman Manley Airport, it was Adams who was called in to make passage safe.
Much of Adams' own strategies have now been adopted. Adams is a fervent believer in community policing. He has offered criminals support if they took to the ways of the Bible but made it clear that he could not guarantee their safety if they did not. Yet, he has been demonised as a violent psychopath. Adams was also trained at the Management Institute of National Development in intelligence work. He was one of the early pioneers of both community policing and intelligence analysis. But his detractors promote the idea that he is a violent, trigger-happy killer and nothing more.
Now governments, police organisations and NGOs all accept community policing and intelligence analysis as vital for building peace in communities and gathering the facts on those that disturb this peace. Even during his suspension, Adams used his time to do a study course on intelligence work. The truth is that everything Adams believes in has now become the central planks of policing in Jamaica and around the world.
JAMAICANS FOR INJUSTICE
A whole array of governments and private organisations like Jamaicans for Justice, Amnesty International, the Independent Jamaica Council for Human Rights, Families Against State Terrorism, and the Farquarson Institute for Public Affairs have amassed more resources to convict Mr. Adams than any other individual in Jamaica's history. Something must be very wrong when criminals and human rights groups join in this common mission.
Adams had, at one count, said there had been 69 plots against his life by criminals and that as much as $21 million had been offered for his death. Failing that, others have sought to destroy his reputation and his career. His enemies will not even allow the court to change the perception that Adams is a killer.
The private sector says the first task of government is to protect the society. This is exactly what Adams believes and has been saying for years. Yet, the private sector stood by and allowed the CMU to be undermined. Adams believes that by disbanding the CMU, gunmen were sent the message that they could operate without fear, and they have. By the end of 2005, Jamaica had become the murder capital of the world.
Adams estimated that the same private sector was paying $400 million a year in extortion money. This money is used to buy guns and feed the extortion frenzy of criminals causing them to expand their gangs across greater parts of Jamaican territory. At the same time, the private sector has turned a blind eye to the real estate, legal services, car dealerships, hardware and lumber, and banking and financial systems, through which criminals readily launder their blood money.
We welcome the success of Operation Kingfish, international cooperation in intelligence, and community policing. The police, communities and NGOs must be congratulated for the significant declines in murder since the start of the year. Special successes in Grants Pen and Eastern Kingston are heartening. The burden of policing and successes in crime-fighting cannot be ascribed to one individual. However, SSP Adams has much to offer and Jamaicans want him to be allowed to do his job.
Adams' reinstatement at an intelligence desk might be a compromise to take him off the streets and appease the human rights groups while keeping him in the force to satisfy the public. But, policing cannot be compromised. It is up to SSP Adams to make his work in intelligence count. He can probably make his greatest impact there.
But, the force will still need policemen on the streets who are fearless and vigilant enough to win the respect of Jamaican communities. Can it find more people like Reneto Adams?
Robert Buddan is a lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies. You can send your comments to Robert.Buddan@uwimona.edu.jm