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Raffique Shah


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Considering a new commissioner

By Raffique Shah
October 19, 2017

The last hope we have for reining in runaway crime in this country lies with a leader yet unknown, the man or woman who will be recommended by the Police Service Commission to be named Commissioner of Police, subject to approval by Parliament. In fact, since crime affects so many aspects of citizens' daily lives as well as the country's economy, and because the Police Service is, or ought to be, the spearhead of any assault on crime, the new commissioner will carry on his shoulders a burden bigger than Government's, and greater expectations than any other office-holder in the State-apparatus—the President, the Prime Minister or the Chief Justice.

For these reasons, the convoluted selection process that finally got underway last August, which, according to the PSC, will take four months, must yield a virtual superman who is capable of not only delivering us from the evils of crime, but of restoring law and order in the wider society.

It's a tall order, I know. But believe me, this country needs a real hero at this time, someone whose integrity is intact, whose fortitude is limitless, someone who, while not disrespecting the hierarchy or the people he will protect and serve, will prosecute lawbreakers at every level of the society, from so-called white collar criminals to rogue elements within the police ranks, captain to crook.

The selection process will also yield a deputy commissioner who must be of similar stature to the CoP, since that person will assist the Commissioner in his duties, and act as CoP when the chief is on leave or otherwise unavailable.

My emphatic pronouncement of the "last hope" resting with the brave souls who offer themselves for these unenviable positions, especially that of Commissioner, may seem to be over-dramatic, or fuelling excessive expectations of a mere mortal. I argue, though, that the challenges facing the new CoP are Herculean, hence require superior leadership and management skills, if he is to have any impact on crime and criminality that have permeated the Police Service and the wider society.

To illustrate just how rotten the system is, there may well be so-called white collar criminals who will do whatever they can to ensure that a fiercely-independent, competent candidate, does not get the job—and I'm not joking when I make this assertion.

And if, perchance, he gets past that hurdle and is appointed Commissioner, he will need a combination of titanium body armour and potions from the inheritors of Papa Neezer's spiritual sanctum to protect him from the vipers that surround him in the Service he will lead.

I take no pleasure in painting this grim picture of what the new CoP will face in the few weeks between his selection and sitting in the commander's chair. Note well, I have not yet mentioned fighting crime and criminals, which should be his prime focus, by which law-abiding citizens will judge him.

Ideally, he would be someone with good leadership skills that he will have acquired by a combination of training, experience and self-development. He would lead by example, especially when it comes to integrity, the independence that is expected of his office, and display a work ethic that will inspire his subordinates. These qualities will enable him to command the respect of all decent police officers, which is critical to what he must do within the Service as a prerequisite to fighting crime.

Even before he embarks on the war that so many of his predecessors and line ministers have repeatedly declared but failed to prosecute, he must be sure that none among his troops are sleeping or dealing with the enemy-the criminal elements. All rogue officers must be purged from the ranks, once there is sufficient evidence to suggest they are "fifth columnists".

The new Commissioner must be given the powers to suspend, even fire, such elements, whatever their ranks and duration of service: they are part of the problem, so they cannot be part of the solution. Let them take legal action, as they will. It is better the State pay one or two thousand such miscreants one or two billion dollars in court awards if the results are halving the number of murders, reducing all serious crimes by, say, seventy percent, and substantially increasing the detection, prosecution and conviction rates.

Desperate times call for desperate measures: we have long passed that state, thanks to some of these said police officers who have not only failed the citizenry, but who are part of the multi-billion-dollar criminal enterprise. Weed them out!

Maybe I'm too much of a dreamer to even contemplate the prospect of a competent, brave, pro-active top cop. Given that the selection process has yielded nothing in five years, except ten Oscars and two Emmys for Stephen Williams, the longest-serving acting commissioner in the world, I am overly optimistic.

Better to dream, though, than to come awake daily to the nightmares of guns and bullets and blood that all citizens must envisage or endure, but none more so than we older people who are easy targets for today's unconscionable criminals.

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