The profound impact of Colonialism and today’s law enforcement struggles in` Jamaica`

BY R.D Miller

A historic toxic blueprint

Jamaica and several other Caribbean islands under colonial rule and their quest for emancipation harbor a deep suspicion of its law enforcement system. It has repeatedly caused ongoing conflicts and struggles research has shown until today.

The Morant Bay Rebellion was one major turning point between law enforcement and civilian relationships. On or about 7th October 1865, a man-made noise in the court and was ordered to be brought before the justices. He was captured by the police and immediately rescued by Paul Bogle. [He is a National Hero of Jamaica.]

Around one hundred and fifty other people joined him with sticks and they severely beat the constabularies. Many historians believed there was tension prior, but the turning point came after Paul Bogle interviewed.

To capture Paul Bogle, the officers again were assaulted and temporarily seized. They had to affirm a pledge not to arrest people in the community. The anti-British Slavery Society also played a pivotal role where riots have contributed to an anti-law enforcement sentiment that produced today’s Us vs Them mentality.

Muscle Memory:

Many scholars further believe decades of rebellion and other systematic socio-economic failures by rulers and later political leaders; law enforcement could not counter the insults and resentment of deep wounds. Though there seems since efforts to change that narrative, many still wonder has anything changed?

The psychological torment many suffered and few will admit today, that colonialism in Jamaica and other places, where law enforcement was used to hold slaves and lower-class people in segregated areas, and that period of tension, anger, hate, and distrust reverberates today.

Though some of today’s burdens are self-inflicted from community distrust, questionable police killings, abuse of power, and lack of accountability, or reported corruption, unanswered questions by several victims, but should few thugs be allowed cripple a nation’s future?

Indisputable, the new paradigm taking place is a step in the right direction. These outreach may create a new generation who want to serve their country without fear for the right reason and not castigated for being an officer. However, it will not generate more jobs the next day, lower taxes, addressing climate issues, or building better roads in one operation. The fact remains, the nation is one of the most dangerous parts in this hemisphere.

The Silent Generation

The “silent generation,” maybe subconsciously a deep-rooted hostility, is like a cancer in many of these neighbourhoods. The ongoing tension has remained a generational issue. Some simply find it hard to escape the past and will look for any reason to revisit it.

Though their concerns are legitimate, they too must play a role to build on what is working and help to fix any shortcomings, even if they do not live on these shores, or tucked away in a gated community. They should stop looking for the perfect, because it cannot continue to be the enemy of good efforts.

These Cohorts are vital to understanding how their formative experiences on these shores, whether technological, economic, and social that influenced their lives.

Experts noted that though we may share divergent views from Traditionalist, 1900 to 1945, Baby Boomers, 1646-1964, Generation X, 1965-1980, their influence plays an important role especially and how many Millennials 1981 and 1996 and Generational Z view the world current’s polarization, inequality, political, socioeconomic divide and uncertainty.

Good muscle memory, a term used in law enforcement that can be the difference between survival and death in an operation. What has taken place is like our parents urged us to desert their native land, and you grew up with that resentment?

Frankly, some may require counseling for closure and where not even reparation for that dark period in its history can fix.

Wearing multiple hats and without them, then what?

The law enforcement marriage in Jamaica is like walking on a high rope over a cliff without a safety net where fear, respect, hate, love, distrust, trust, love you today, lets see how the next day plays out, overworked and often under-appreciated is a constant reminder of a difficult task.

Combating crime remains a contentious roll-call, and it is a public health issue regardless of what party is in power. It is a constant mission that has to be illustrated in a delicate balance between politics, crime control, civilian rights, and rule of law. They must continue forging relations in the open to show an alternative approach since you can’t shoot your way out of crime.

In any system, or a bag of apples, you may have a few spoiled ones, but it seems when an officer dies in the line of duty, far too often the silence is deafening, but when criminals are taken out, frequently you find more questions as these communities struggle with what is Perception vs Reality

Many officers have been reaching out more over the past 3-4 years, and I know for certain because few of us have had a family member or a friend who served or died in the line of duty there. However, many efforts to foster a long-term relationship are often minimized, and it may not be what some would perceive from a dejected experience.

These outreaches may not be for a dad today, but for his generation, and one day he may tell his offspring, I had a delightful day with a police officer, and that will have a lasting impact or a child’s encounter that he uses to alter dad’s feelings. Community Policing is like your vote. It should be for the next generation.

Perhaps more joint statements from all political leaders, influential citizens, and the Twitter journalists that can change the outcome of an election should be more open to condemn these atrocities from the headlines that may change a potential criminal outlook. Sure, one’s civil rights and the rule of law have to be maintained, but combating crime is more than a 24 hours`headline news cycle.

Community Policing is how society builds trust and respect and creates a new generation who will want to serve for the right reason. Far too often these hard-working officers carried the burden of the society’s problem. Without them, you cannot have democracy or a country. Law enforcement serves as the lifeline of these communities, and a country needs them.

Without these civil servants,’ safety on these shores; for some it would be like a stray dog crossing a busy street at night with oncoming traffic. These dedicated officers each day wear multiple hats, navigating between a banana peel, hopping pockets of stagnant water in 100-plus degree weather, mitigating from a small theft, to armed robberies, and yes, counselors, and mediators, while deterring violence and helping victims of crimes.

This very day it seems the foggy history of misgiving between the police and its people often led to apprehension from coming forward and speaking up to reduce violence and hold perpetrators accountable.

But the community should not blame law enforcement alone if they have information and remain silent. An officer is someone’s brother, mom, father, an uncle, aunt a cousin.

The debris that lingers across many shores

Jamaica is not alone, other regions of the Caribbean and Latin America are experiencing this struggle to deal with these criminal elements, according to reports. Sadly, crime has contributed to high unemployment and has caused an ever-widening gap between the rich and poor, and violence become glorified by a selected few.

Crime can take place anywhere and the issue is normally internal, inner-city, and pockets of rural areas, and rarely it touches the millions of visitors, but recent warnings may change travel plans for many. Crime experts noted that some of the most dangerous islands are Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Bahamas, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic and other places have seen an increase.

If 20-year-old Jimmy high school dropout is unemployed, operates the latest motor vehicle, and has no trace of inherent income, lives in the most exclusive neighborhood, and is feared on the block. He recruits hopeless youths as his crew members by providing them with gifts, and attention that they may lack at home.

Unfortunately, if this menace to society remains untouchable despite evidence of wrongdoing, this is one method of how gangs are formed while using a history’s toxicity, with added barbaric ideology, and resentment to create community mayhem.

And if law enforcement struggles met with resistance to order shut down, even a loud music; or illegal drug operations, or scamming, then what type of statement are these communities sending? More residents must speak up and stop treating lawless criminals who have exploited communities like heroes. It only creates an uneasy feeling for many including visitors outside the protected zones.

With a nation’s delicate economy depend on a sense of safety regardless of what party was in power when the amount of murders spiked, if the absolute disregard for public servants does not take on a more urgent need, soon criminals will start charging their tolls and other extortion. And then who will be the voice for a high school girl sexually exploited, raped, gone missing, or killed for not complying with criminal demands and her family must stay silent because of fear?

Balancing safety and the socioeconomic dance

Decades ago, few people possessed a firearm on these shores. Usually, a local business owner, security, and law enforcement officers. Today, a grocery store worker, taxi driver, and food stand vendors are armed. Carrying a weapon has become the norm more than job security, economic development, career plan, or youth deterrence programs.

Today, a fight to gain social control in some communities riddled with crime, they are under-developed, lack upward mobility, and where lethal weapons are present in the hands of criminals, law enforcement officers are frequently outgunned and that makes it a risky undertaking.

Many reports have shown leaders have declared “Zone Strategies” to dismantle havens that harbor criminals and gangs linked to an increasing murder rate; some remains unresolved. According to local news reports, the operations identified high “criminal zones” to rid communities of violence. But has it worked as intended?

For decades, pockets of criminals have caused serious public safety concerns. “They display no respect for the rule of law,” a victim argued. “They are carrying out retaliation and fighting over territory with no regard for human lives. “These targeted communities will be re-introduced once officers vacate this area.” “Some choose to remain silent in fear of being classified as a snitch and later targeted.”

On the other side of the debate, arming more civilians may not be the solution because criminals often will target citizens for their weapons. Many of these legal gun owners lack the skills to operate these weapons properly. This is where a forensic system to determine if a person has recently handled or fired a weapon is critical.

Forensic evidence in a firearms-related case is key to link a small piece of a bullet fragment mark to provide the manufacturer or marketer information, and I believe this is an area that may require more investments.

Selected town hall meetings and promises alone cannot fix these systematic issues. It is like solving crime with bullets alone, and that represents a losing strategy.

Politics and complexity.

Sadly, many constituency leaders are at excellent winning an election, but governing is more difficult. They are good at an image like they are balancing justice, economic prosperity and developing solutions. Some may share a similar attitude towards public servants, and studies have shown that not all political leaders share the same approach, but will remain silent.

Often opposing party, despite their previous time in power, seems to have discovered reasons to dissent and not collaborate because of political ideology and indirectly they likewise are victims.

Reducing crime and achieving social reform needs more than legislation and incarceration, and after the camera has departed from the scene of a crime, and a victim receives a hug from an elected official. It calls for a holistic approach that incorporates, accountability, job opportunities, treatment and rehabilitation, and economic policy that targets these impoverished communities. You cannot neglect an area and ask law enforcement to correct it years later.

Today, Jamaica and several other Caribbean islands Constabulary Force operate under an ancient Political Era. A time before the 20th century refers to a period when the police were under the control of politicians according to experts.

They tied these officers to the political machine, less transparent, selectively reporting crimes, protecting influential groups, and that often resulted in corruption and distrust. This is Colonialism if citizens only see their essential task as law enforcement is to control the movements and activities, and nominal statistics on case solved or other outreach to build community confidence.

The Reform-Era -While many of these communities are going through reported rampant struggles to balance poverty, justice, corruption, and other barriers. Therefore, they must institute fundamental systematic change because of political strife and color of sabotage and let the police do their work, from recruit, training, and a decentralization of the system according to the experts.

Community Policing Era, which focuses on connecting all stakeholders, embracing other roles; including counselors and social workers as many criminal justice institutions. Scholars argued this modern concept should be embraced or enforced to a broader extent to build trust and therefore reduce conflicts.

The difficulty many crime fighting leaders face is chronic poverty, political influence, and offenders with substance abuse, mental health issues, and lack of resources makes it a daunting task, but being an officer is not a day at the altar

May be time for wider protective vest.

Fortunately, beneath the rubble, a majority of Jamaicans are law-abiding citizens as in any other place. The success or failures of implementing a new strategy should not be about what party messenger the appointees came from to lead. Any mission to curb violence and lower the chance of becoming a victim endures an auspicious start.

The rapid turnover rate of Commissioners in the past is also problematic. Far too often stymies crime-fighting strategies that are already in place. These top positions in the Caribbean, and often in many poor and developing countries, is complicated.

Shifting an old mentality is critical. There has to be significant change like people marching to condemn criminals like when an offer executes a terrible judgment, pastor, guidance counselors, teacher, social workers, youth clubs, politician, and rehabilitated offenders, the “all hands on deck”approach

It is possible if these high crime communities select their safety officials, rather than political appointments, this could create a smoother ride from the ongoing turbulent relationships, and build more trust.

Does Jamaica need a military?

Maybe merging these institutions can be a cost-saving measure in shoring up the police force? Jamaica does not have a border problem with any neighboring countries.

It could learn from Costa Rica, which eliminated its military in the late 1940s and invested resources into education, national safety, and general healthcare. As economic scholars have written, it appears to have been a positive return from that strategy.

Sure, some of us do not give a damn from the outside, and thank you in advance for advising us to “butt out” since we have our crime issues. However, it is not about location or ideology, but safer communities, good economic policies that create change for a better quality of life for all.

Though crime is ubiquitous; for some looking in, if the erosion of safety in these crime-riddled headlines continues on these lovely shores; it is not only a public health issue, but may cause an economic downturn if visitors stayed away from a vacation package, and expatriate goes elsewhere.

Finally, education, training, treatment, community support because you cannot have a society without the safety of its people. And maybe a mental shift-is more effective than a bullet. Paul Bogle has his resentment, but because he was being oppressed to free a generation from colonial laws. I am hopeful, but it will take a generational shift from its history. Best Wishes!

Photo by RODNAE Productions

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