Sun | Jun 16, 2024

Orville Taylor | Arleen … a no dream; she a dream

Published:Sunday | May 26, 2024 | 12:06 AM

‘Without favour, affection, malice or ill will.’ For people given awesome powers by a society, including the decision whether or not an individual should die, this oath is the one check and balance which protects all citizens, including the police, to whom such authority is given.

Bar none, any individual in that organisation, who has even the slightest misgiving regarding obeying such an oath, is unfit for service in the Constabulary, irrespective of his or her ability, qualifications or rank, period. And I am willing to help them craft their resignation letter.

True, humans develop feelings and sentiments, which may influence our behaviour. These include intimate liaisons, previous hostilities, consanguine relationships, religious persuasion and in a country like Jamaica, political affinity. Doubtless, every single individual has a right to like or dislike whomever, whatever and any other entity of his or her choice. However, for police officers, none of this should be taken into consideration, when performing one’s duties. In fact, any deliberate variation from the noble oath is simply corruption.

On Wednesday last, democracy reared its head, and the delegates voted once more to choose, newly promoted sergeant Arleen McBean as chairperson of the Jamaica Police Federation. To the best of my knowledge, she was not handpicked or touted by anyone outside of the federation.

After all, she was very popular as a corporal and garnered the most votes among that constituency last time around in 2023. In absolute terms, this year she had the most persons marking their X for her. This is significant, because sergeants are smaller in number than corporal and the constables. What this simply means is that the majority of the persons within the federation are in support of McBean.

IMMEDIATE TASK

She has an immediate task, because she is the representative of all who voted for and against her, and she must take her oath as a member of the Constabulary very seriously. Whatever bitterness she may taste; she needs to swallow it. A divided constabulary is a criminal’s paradise. This is the case when the federated ranks are split along lines, which have no place in the Force, just as when there were elements attempting to create a chasm between the federated ranks, and the officer corps.

Trust me, I am familiar with Section 69 of the Constabulary Force Act, and not being a police officer, I have no the particular stomach for it. It speaks to creating disaffection among the troops. Whatever be the legal standards of proof, from a behavioural science point of view, any action, carried out by anyone of any rank within the constabulary or from outside, which creates disharmony, disunity and/or reduction in morale; even if the conduct is lawful, within the powers granted by the state, is clearly designed to cause disaffection.

For the record, where anyone acts contrary to the ubiquitous section, a well-thinking member of the Constabulary should not just speak, but put his mouth where his money is, and charge such person, without favour, affection, malice or ill will. No one is above the law.

For us to succeed, we must call a spade a shovel and not be pusillanimous. The Jamaica Constabulary Force is wounded and some damage is largely self-inflicted. Some years ago, there was an internal excoriation of the entire officer corps. In her first lien on the leadership, this history-making female was ousted in a very unceremonious and extremely unpopular fashion. Those scars have not healed, and many police officers still remember, are still deeply disaffected, and ‘carry bellies’. Indeed, last week several officers ‘pulled the file’ on that process, in which the implanted replacement was playfully nicknamed ‘Guaido’, given the similarity with the attempted ouster of the Venezuelan president around the same period.

UNPOPULAR ACTION

Make no bones about it; irrespective of elements among the federated ranks siding with the high command over the interdiction of ousted Chairman Rohan James, it is a divisive and unpopular action, both within the society at large and the Constabulary.

Perhaps, there are facts, which are not known to the public, but are guarded closely by the high command, in what it believes is in the interest of the Force. However, based on the limited knowledge shared by the high command and the incontrovertible facts, at least four persons who have worn the laurel wreaths, the entire trade union movement, Jamaicans for Justice and other civil organisations have disagreed with the interdiction.

My own position, after 41 years of labour management expertise and having handled my first interdiction in 1983, was, without fear, favour or malice, that it was not the right thing to do.

Indeed, given the principles of natural justice, which guide the activities of my ‘alma mater’, the Industrial Relations Division of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, and certainly the Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT), it would be impossible to justifiably suspend anyone in this fashion in the private sector. Interdiction violates the principles outlined above; because it is punishment a priori, rather than post facto. A cardinal tenet is that one must be found guilty by someone different from who charged him, before any punishment can be administered. Call it whatever you wish; ask any expert in the Labour Ministry or IDT, or the handful of knowledgeable industrial relations lawyers; and they will guide you to the unequivocal conclusion.

Nonetheless, it is a tool that is used too often in the public sector, because it is ‘good law’, while not always necessarily fair.

Like McBean, our newly minted commissioner, Kevin Blake, who was recruited through one of the policies guided by one of the very same former senior laurel wreaths, who publicly disagreed with the interdiction, has a task as well. We, who remember him as a recruit, know the storm and want him to do well and right.

Not everyone who disagrees with him is his enemy and not everyone who laps at his feet and endorses him means him well.

Use last week to make ‘JCF strong.’

Dr Orville Taylor is senior lecturer at the Department of Sociology at The University of the West Indies, a radio talk-show host, and author of ‘Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets’. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@hotmail.com