AT A HIGHLY anticipated appearance before the Parliament’s national security committee, newly minted Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher made several bold promises.
“I want to assure the national public that it is my intention to bring about meaningful changes in the policing of our country,” she said.
She went on to give us a taste of that transformation.
“We expect to see a change in the murder rate short-term by June, and long-term by December,” the commissioner said.
Not even the most confident and bombastic of her predecessors would have ever dared to set out such a specific timeframe for getting that which the public wants most: results. Already, the new commissioner has set a tone of accountability and transparency that departs substantially from recent practice.
It is a big risk, but it is one that speaks to a confidence that is refreshing.
A reduction in the rate could not come soon enough. The murder toll has crossed 100 and we are only two months into the year. The number of people killed has also already eclipsed the total number of murders “solved” by police in 2022.
Additionally, about a dozen police-involved killings have occurred, which are now subject to various investigations, including one ordered by the new commissioner this weekend. She did not wait for calls for a probe but acted proactively in the wake of the incident which took place reportedly on Friday.
But if she differs in her approach from her predecessors in these respects, how Ms Harewood-Christopher intends to achieve her stated objectives does not appear to rock the boat.
She has promised “new strategies” and to bring forth a “storm before the calm.”
Yet, much of her planning for the moment seems to involve talk of increased police visibility, increased detection and prosecution, the targeting of repeat offenders and gang leaders and the rehabilitation of the image of the police – all of which ring familiar.
Time will tell, therefore, whether this “storm” will be mere robber talk.
For the moment, it is reassuring to hear of the continuation of policies that are badly needed within the service, such as the procurement of body cameras to assist in investigations of police misconduct.
The approach of the commissioner’s executive to discrete problems, such as the larceny of cars, is also notable, with some officials approaching the matter in terms of disrupting criminal enterprise.
The winds may be in Ms Harewood-Christopher’s favour.
Economic recovery is expected to continue in this fiscal period, a factor that cannot be overlooked.
But whatever the outlook, when she finalises her crime plan in coming days, the commissioner must continue in the same vein of transparency and accountability demonstrated this week.