The proverb, a new broom sweeps clean, means that people who are newly appointed can make far-reaching and incisive changes. Such changes could be personnel, systems or simply the opportunity to introduce new techniques. The proverb has an additional dimension in that an old broom knows the corners. Police Commissioner, Erla Harewood-Christopher, is a career police officer and a new broom who knows the corners. Her appointment also brings an added dimension as it breaks the proverbial glass ceiling.
What matters is results. According to Deng Xiaoping (Chinese revolutionary leader, military commander and statesman), it does not matter if the cat is black or white as long as it eats mice. There are many issues of discipline and work practices within the service that must be addressed. Newspaper reports and cases before the courts suggest that there are elements within the police service who are there to serve their personal interest, not to protect and serve the interests of the public. Since recruitment comes from the same human resource pool, a key task is to improve the recruitment process, in addition to the discipline levels within the service.
Ensuring that results are obtained by making consequential changes to policing methods and the brand of policing deployed will matter. Those changes must be deep-rooted and positively reinforced to ensure the benefits are long-lasting. This is not a job for one person and the police service leadership will need to be realigned to support these objectives. Management requires a team effort, with positive leadership to direct subordinates and colleagues.
Opportunities come dressed in working clothes and there has been no shortage of opportunities. There is the case of missing ammunition, which unlike the cocaine at the St Joseph Police Station could not have been eaten by the rats. The recent report on human trafficking and the important explanation by the US Ambassador that the term “Government Official” includes not only PM, Minister, MPs, and Senators but also anyone who works in the Public Service. This includes personnel from Customs, Immigration, the Defence Force and the TTPS. Announcing an investigation is the easy part.
Similarly, the murder toll has accelerated and is currently 13 per cent higher than in 2022. This is the biggest opportunity, to change the key metric on which citizens focus. Appearing before the second session of the Joint Select Committee discussing anti-crime strategies used by the police service to address criminal activities in the country, the Commissioner made the bold promise that the murder rate would be reduced by the end of June.
No details on the specific strategies to be adopted to achieve this objective were given. Neither has the Commissioner responded to newspaper inquiries on the mechanisms that would be employed to achieve this objective. That is her prerogative and judgement, which is fair. It would be a mistake to assume either that the bandits are unintelligent, or that they do not read the newspapers. Such plans are best kept secret, if not quiet.
Few will argue about the tactics and strategy if the Commissioner achieves her objective. Her credibility and the credibility of the TTPS are at stake. Many of the country’s institutions are already underperforming, including the TTPS. In the final analysis, the Commissioner’s success will be the country’s success. We wish her well.