What does it mean to ‘protect and serve?’

What does it mean to, ‘protect and serve.’

The tag line, ‘to protect and serve,’ which originated with the Los Angeles Police Department in the 1950s is found on cop cars and other such associated edifices in North America. In Jamaica similar treatment but different words, for our JCF- “We serve, we protect, we reassure with courtesy, integrity and proper respect for the rights of all.” Being recently consumed by the news as it unfolds each day, which to me is a direct indicator that I have transcended into the realm of pre-geriatric inevitability, the accident on the site of the Royalton Resort in Negril awoken my sensibilities and gave rise to the question- what does it mean to protect and serve?

I wondered a myriad of things all at once. Having worked as a Building and Planning Officer at a Local Authority and being trained in sustainable urban planning AND environmental policy, my first thought was to the ‘condition of approval.’  Notice I did not just go to the approval. This precaution was due to the physiography of the area and its associated environmental sensitivity. Then I immediately mentally meandered through all the layers of approval which lead to the issuance of BOTH a building and an environment permit. I checklisted all the possible agencies that would have been involved. The Local Authorities, on a point of order, do not have the final jurisdiction as it pertains to a development of this size.

As the control station in my brain was busy with all these thought processes, I was reminded- by the left side of my brain- that even though all those processes exist – THIS IS JAMAICA. That left-side always annoys me and on this matter the irritability meter rang off the chain as I remember PearTree Bottom and others similar to Royalton. Some of the key points for me were (1) the official report by the Jamaica Environmental Trust, (2) statements by the Negril Chamber of Commerce, (c) the news that construction was taking place around the clock and (d) employee safety (Occupational Health and Safety laws).

So you work for government, what does that mean? It is often at the government Ministries and their agencies that many first degree and multiple-subjected young person start  their professional career. These eager to learn …and serve individuals are supervised, managed and in general led by more seasoned Public Servants. In other words a cadre of officers in the government service. Therefore the ultimate thought was  to ponder how much introspection, in the general public service, is aligned with this motto, slogan, tagline …call it what you will. ‘To protect and serve.’ You see this is not just confined to one arm of public service. This rings true for all and is an unspoken, under-referenced but inherently understood part of all the sectors’ missions. However, as a member of the public service you are most definitely not paid commensurate with the duties assigned your station. Further in the ever revolving door of life, debts, bills, etc is an ever present reminder to preserve your job.

What does that have to do with this case? The construction of a large capital intensive project also involves a large capital investment from the natural environment. Unfortunately, the cost to the environment is often downplayed and /or under-valued even with attempts to cost ecosystems services. The removal of sand which are apart of beach ecosystems and form part of island environments as natural protective barriers in the events of storm surges is trumped by the number of jobs that will be provided. Cliched but STILL true. So what then as a public servant do you do, in that context, ‘to protect and serve?’ Lets get that the ‘text book’ expectations out of the way.

DEFINITIONS and defining moments…according to Oxford Dictionary no less…

PROTECT means as a verb- to keep safe from harm or injury. As an adjective in the form of PROTECTED- Aim to preserve (a threatened species or area) by legislating against collecting, hunting, or development. AND FOR GOOD MEASURE origin of the word, Late Middle English: from Latin protect- ‘covered in front’, from the verb protegere, from pro-‘in front’ + tegere ‘to cover’.

SERVE means as a verb-perform duties or services for (another person or an organization); Be of use in achieving or satisfying. Origin of the word, Middle English: from Old French servir, from Latin servire, from servus ‘slave.’ OUCH!

As a member of any government service the main duty would be to country. This means to the people and to the generations to come. Which means that development, especially on small island developing states should not be undertaken at the expense of the environment, we just cannot afford it!…unfortunately this is an ideal and is deemed easier said than done. Therefore despite best intentions most of those in the cadre of public servants are unable to function is a pure and unfiltered way. Cases such as Royalton occur and the customary hoopla is raised but then and sadly, its back to business, quite literally.

The statement by both JET  can be accessed via link – http://www.jamentrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/JETs-review-of-post-permit-monitoring-Royalton-Hotels-Ja-PDF-March-2016.pdf.

The Negril Chamber of Commerce statement  treated by Nationwide can be accessed via link – http://nationwideradiojm.com/nepa-hanover-pc-under-fire-after-royalton-collapse/

Conversely then I have read the rationale for the developers ‘need for speed’ but was left wondering if whether as a result, extra special instructions and measures were implemented on the work site to protect the workers in light of the expedited activities? Were all the workers insured? Is the developer compensating the workers’ family while the men are laid up with injuries? How do we treat with these matters? Who ensures expediency in this regard?Justice is often delayed they say…but in light of all we know about the case….it should not be so for these men. While all the site visits, investigating, calls for head to roll…and report writing is underway…lets not forget the men whose lives were impacted. Though they are often seen as ‘rough and tough’ they are humans and the event will have lingering traumatic effects….hopefully that is also factored into compensation packages.


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