End political interference in the police force

The strained relationship between Police Commissioner George Quallo and National Security Minister Robert Montague cannot be good for the country, especially given the high rate of crime, particularly murders, being experienced at this time.

The fact that wage negotiations between the police force and the State are not going well has only served to exacerbate this unfortunate situation, which, we believe, could have been avoided had Minister Montague exercised some amount of diplomacy in his dealings with the police.

We are not here advocating that the minister handle with kid gloves any breach of policy by the police, including the commissioner. For if he did, Mr Montague would be abrogating his responsibility to his employers — the Jamaican people.

However, if Minister Montague had genuine concerns about the management of police operations he could have had a stern word or two with Commissioner Quallo, instead of making a public show using the media as his main source of contact.

The irony of the minister’s demand for a report on the New Year’s Day debacle on the Palisadoes Road is that the police commissioner could have ignored the request and the ultimatum. Indeed, Commissioner Quallo would have been well within his right so to do as there is a clear line of demarcation between policy — for which the minister has responsibility — and operations, which is the remit of the police commissioner.

Based on all the reports we have received on the happenings on the Palisadoes road it was clear that supervision of the police on the scene was sorely lacking. That is a problem for the commissioner to deal with, and he should not be allowed to just let it slip, as not only did it inconvenience a lot of travellers, but it will, we suspect, have significant negative impact on the economy.

We are also most concerned about the news release from the Police Officers’ Association and its claims of interference from the minister regarding the distribution of motor vehicles within the constabulary. If indeed this is so, we ask Minister Montague to walk carefully as that is not his remit.

We cannot ignore the fact that one of the problems we have had in this country for too long is that of political interference in the police force. We find it amusing almost that politicians in Opposition will criticise the Government about this behaviour, only to do the same when there is a change of Administration.

The upshot is the creation of disharmony and demotivation within the ranks of the constabulary, especially when it is evident that the chief constable is being bullied by politicians to do their bidding.

Outside of concerns over salaries and fringe benefits within the police force, we cannot expect that constant political interference will engender a climate in which professionalism and a deep commitment to enforce the law will thrive.

Quite frankly, this country should work at getting to the point where the political directorate does not have a say, whether directly or otherwise, in who is appointed police commissioner, or who among the officer corps and rank and file is promoted.

That, though, will require political maturity among legislators as well as displays of professionalism within the police force.

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