“WE KNOW them,” Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith said as he blamed 50 gunmen for the bulk of the crime wave. “We know who they are.”
But, he added, “There is a difference between the intelligence of pinpointing a suspect to having evidence to have them arrested.” In other words, we know who is guilty even before we have evidence they really are. Yet, we still know, nonetheless.
To borrow a phrase made famous by US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, “there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know.”
The tangled issue of intelligence and State surveillance is not really clarified in any way by attorney Subhas Panday’s somewhat wry call on Griffith to publish names.
“The population should be given the relevant information so they can act on it and protect themselves,” Panday advises.
But this would result in a complete free-for-all in which vigilante justice, extrajudicial killing, and unilateral determinations of guilt would run amok, making an already wild west even wilder.
Where Panday is correct, however, is to scrutinise the sums pumped into a national security apparatus that is yet to stamp out the illegal firearm trade or curb the bloodshed in the streets.
“It appears the more money we spend on national security, with particular reference to crime-solving, the murder rate continues to escalate phenomenally,” he said.
What is the State spending its money on? Clearly, it is gathering intelligence. But what use is all of the intelligence in the world if the law enforcement authorities are unable to process this with a view to ensuring soundly constructed cases in court?
It matters not how much we know unless the public can feel safe through palpable results. Such results do come in and are, lamentably, relatively unheralded when faced with the gruesome and barbaric acts of violence being perpetrated, such as the murder of a mother in front of her son or the shooting of persons in the vicinity of schools.
Still, the police must avoid making unforced errors when it comes to criminal investigations. How can detection become more focused and efficient? How can prosecutors be assisted by getting already watertight cases?
Griffith is right to note the two major obstacles. The fear of reprisals. And the so-called Robin Hood factor in which criminals may actually be protected as a means of acknowledging instances of generosity and keeping the peace. In this regard, are witness protection measures working as they should?
It is time the police and law enforcement agencies get together to see what can be done, in cooperation with regional and international partners, in order to rid us of this scourge. If we know what’s going on, we should be able to come to grips with reality faster.