Last year January the Police Service Commission (PSC) was in the process of “seeking to identify a suitably qualified candidate either from within or outside the Jamaica Constabulary Force to fill the post of Commissioner of Police as soon as possible.” Less than a year after the new Commissioner of Police was appointed, the PSC is again in that process, as Commissioner George Quallo is set to demit office this week.
In a blog post on January 3, 2017, Advertising for Police Commissioner & Other Public Posts, I shared the advertisement for Commissioner of Police placed in the newspapers on January 1 that year and raised some concerns about the advertising and selection process, concerns which I continue to have.
I think that the advertisement posted is seriously lacking in one regard. It does not set out in any specificity the qualifications and experience required of applicants for the post of Commissioner of Police. What level of experience in law enforcement is required? Must experience be within policing or will experience in some other context be considered, for example the military, correctional services or private security? Is there a minimum number of years of experience necessary for consideration? What level of supervisory/managerial experience is required? What are the preferred and minimum educational requirements for the post? These are a few of the requirements that could reasonably be expected to be specified in such an advertisement. It would also be useful to know if the PSC is advertising the post outside of Jamaica, regionally or further afield.
I have long thought that this is an approach that should be taken routinely when advertising vacant public posts, not just for the current vacancy for Commissioner of Police. It gives the public a clearer idea of the criteria considered important for successful fulfilment of the job. It also gives the public a basis for evaluating how well the candidate eventually appointed meets the required qualifications and experience for the post. This would support the increased move towards transparency and accountability required in modern approaches to good governance. It is not too late for the PSC to adopt this approach, and perhaps it is time for this to become routine and required when advertising vacancies for public posts in Jamaica.
As Commissioner Quallo leaves office and as the selection process for the new Commissioner takes place, the public has no specific idea of what qualifications and experience the PSC is looking for in a “suitably qualified candidate”, beyond “strong managerial experience”. The public has no idea how well the outgoing Commissioner fit the PSC’s criteria and will have no idea how well the new Commissioner selected fits those criteria, unless the PSC decides to be more forthcoming this time round.
As would be expected, there are discussions in the traditional and social media about what people would want to see in a new Commissioner. One thread of discussion is that the new Commissioner should be someone capable of leading a process of reform/change/transformation in the police force. As Professor Anthony Clayton said in a discussion on the Nationwide News programme Nationwide @ Five yesterday, “So we are not looking for a continuity candidate; we are looking for a change candidate.”
But the question arises: Change to what? It has long been known that there is a need for fundamental reform of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and over many years there have been reviews and reports giving recommendations for such reform. The 2008 Strategic Review of the JCF report detailed many such recommendations itself, and in its Appendix E provided a useful review of the recommendations of a number of previous reports. If we are expecting the new Commissioner of Police to lead reform of the JCF, it would be good if there were a clear, accepted, official outline of what that reform would look like and would entail.
In Parliament last week (January 23, 2018), Minister of National Security Robert Montague gave an update on “a number of issues pertaining to National Security”; this was in the context of the State of Public Emergency declared for the parish of St James the previous week. In a section of his presentation titled Legislative changes, Minister Montague reiterated the Government’s intention to :replace the current Act governing the JCF:
Sir, we intend to table within 6 months a Police Service Act which will replace the
150 year old Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Act which will be subsequently
repealed. The goal is to break with the past and create a modern Police Service
befitting our times and to better protect the members and serve the public.
This is another important opportunity for reform of the JCF, but the proposed new legislation cannot simply be the old legislation subjected to some level of tinkering. It needs to be reflective of a fundamentally different approach to policing. It is also necessary that there is adequate time allotted for review of and consultation on the draft legislation by members of the public. If this is to be legislation creating a modern Police Service, then it must undergo such a process of consultation with the people the new Police Service is to serve.
Over decades, we have come time and again to the point of stating that reform of the police force is a necessary part of being able to deal with the high level of violent crime that has long plagued Jamaica. Perhaps one day there will actually be the political and societal will to undertake the necessary reform.