“Squaddie hol’ a smalls!” – Important lesson to be learned from JPS.


I thought I’d drop a quick weigh-in on something that caught my eye in today’s news.

The Jamaica Public Service (JPS) has donated four vehicles to the JCF to assist in their crime-fighting efforts (see story). The headline says it’s to “help fight electricity theft”, though from a PR standpoint I suspect the folks at JPS may not like this headline because of how shallow it seems. I say shallow because the headline suggests the vehicles should be used only for the purpose of running down electricity thieves and it comes across as callous self-interest. It’s like if NCB donated vehicles to help catch bank robbers. In any case, I really doubt this was JPS’s intention and is just a demonstration of the press’ need to sensationalize and characterize things; well I hope so.

Police Commissioner Owen Ellington and JPS CEO Kelly Tomblin. Photo via Jamaica Gleaner.

Several things come to mind after reading this story:

1.      How come? It’s pretty sad that the issue of electricity theft has gotten so out of hand that JPS needs to be donating vehicles and working so closely with the JCF to combat it.  People, we cyaan live better than this? Cho man!

 2.      BIG UP Kelly Tomblin: I love her style as a CEO. I can’t know what her personal feelings are and if she really is genuine, but based on her interaction with her public stakeholders, I have every reason to believe she is. In her speeches and general appearances she always comes across as realistic, down to earth, honest and accessible. Keep it up!

3.      What great PR! At first, because of the headline I wondered “How the hell is giving some vehicles to the police really going to stop people stealing your light???” But when I read the article and realized this is part of a wider partnership with the force, which includes education and training in detecting electricity theft (that’s a more meaningful headline to me), I thought “Brilliant!” This is a great way to encourage the force to take the issue more seriously. I literally want to stand and applaud JPS for leading by example: instead of cussing out the force, like we’re accustomed to, they are assisting and empowering them in a meaningful way to tackle the issue. 10/10.

4.      “Yow squaddie hol’ dis an nuh seh nuttn!” Looking through a different lens, this seems like a large-scale example of how we have to basically bribe police in this country to do their jobs. Instead of just springing to duty (I said DUTY), you have to hold their hand, rub them down and sweet them up to get any attention. People will think I’m harsh for putting it this way but it takes me to the major lesson learned from JPS today, which is how we should deal with our ineffective police system.

Please do not think I am just coming down on the police for the sake of making noise. I fully understand that several factors are at play, chiefly the lack of resources, which isn’t their fault. But there is a larger picture.  

The assertion by many people is that the JCF is corrupt, lazy and ineffective and most officers take more pleasure in extorting and brutalizing citizens than doing their duty as civil servants. The opposite camp says they are not paid well and receive poor benefits and are acting according to their poor remuneration.

Real police

Middle ground.

I am grouping the JCF with medical practitioners and teachers because my sentiment goes for all of them. These three professions are crucial elements in the development of any society and should not only be paid well but given every privilege and respect they deserve.

However, people in these professions must understand that they are entrusted with a major responsibility, which involves the well-being, care and protection of other innocent human beings. They must be prepared to take this responsibility seriously, regardless of remunerative conditions. You are in a position where people rely on you for crucial services and you need to be ready to commit the utmost care in exercising that service.

Furthermore, I think most rational people can identify with the need to make practical choices for your well-being and that of your family. Your kids need to eat and rent has to be paid. So if you find yourself in the predicament where you cannot continue with your salary package, COME OUT and find something else that will satisfy your needs. This is a tough decision but it serves the greater good far better than shirking such a vital responsibility, the result of which cause innocent people to suffer. Hopefully, the threat of mass exodus will encourage authorities to offer better incentives to these professionals.

Harsh but true: While we quarrel over benefits, there are husbands cutting their wives’ throats, business owners being extorted, neighbourhoods terrorized by gangs and children being abused. This should take priority over money. It’s not my fault you are being underpaid. Direct your frustration to the people who write your cheques and I will be at the very front of that demonstration; cardboard properly decorated and old fridge trailing behind in support of you. And if we civilians have any sense we should be lobbying on behalf of these professionals. This is ultimately in our interest.

I also want us to recognize that salary is not the only factor in job performance. Case in point: politicians. I think there is serious need for some sort of sensitivity programme for officers where they are conditioned with ideals of civic duty and pride. In the same way we brainwash the poor little JC and KC kids to blindly worship their school, we should condition our officers to not just carry out duty but to want to carry out their duty. If this already exists, someone please educate me, because I’m not seeing the effect of any such initiative. And yes, I do recognize that there are good police officers out there. I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting one myself but I know people who have had sightings.

Finally, I’d love to see some other benefit package for these professionals, if we can’t pay them more. School/education subsidies for their children? Better vacation package? Added health benefits? Tax exemptions? Perhaps this is where Private Sector needs to come on board and follow the JPS lead. Offer special packages to teachers, doctors, nurses and police so they know they have the appreciation of the people they are protecting. The ROI is better service and protection so you can conduct your business more efficiently. If the Private Sector can take the lead on this, I think they can filter the sentiments down to individual citizens. Work with the police and they’ll work with you. The government officials are not the ones being affected by poor services. Bunting and his children will never have to worry about poor police response or inadequate healthcare or education because they can afford the best of these things. The rest of us need to find a way to cope and the JPS model of working with the force instead of barking at them seems to be the way.

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