Editorial

The police merger and related legislation

Monday, March 10, 2014    

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AS we have said previously, key to the success of a raft of anti-crime legislation now being pushed through will be execution.

In that respect we applaud the approval by Cabinet to merge the accessory Island Special Constabulary Force with the regular Jamaica Constabulary Force.

No doubt there was sound reasoning many years ago to separate the two forces.

But in our view, a merger at this time can only redound to greater capacity and efficiency in fighting criminals.

Our only regret is that it has taken so long. Bear in mind that the acclaimed Wolfe report recommended the merger way back in 1991 as part of a major overhaul of law enforcement. We are told that five separate reports and studies have made the recommendation since.

It reminds us that somehow in Jamaica we have to move with far greater alacrity from talk to action.

Police Commissioner Owen Ellington expects the merging of the entities will result in significant efficiency gains. These include the: implementation of a single command and communication structure; elimination of duplication in administrative services; expansion in the skill sets of police personnel through the unification of training programmes; rationalisation of various overheads such as rental of property; and creation of the means by which the transmission and inculcation of a core set of common values can be effected.

At ground level, Jamaicans will be expecting that it translates to greater numbers of police on the streets, especially at nights, not only on the highways and main roads but on the little-used byways and back roads. It's no secret that the movement of criminals from their traditional bases in urban areas to and from deep rural Jamaica has presented serious problems for

the police.

Moving on, we note recent comments by National Security Minister Peter Bunting that developers and planners should provide the police with easy access to houses. Mr Bunting was referring to the practice of using footpaths rather than roads "for access to internal housing units" which, as he quite correctly said, "creates a serious policing challenge".

Not unrelated is the recent initiative in Greenwich Farm to remove ugly zinc fencing which, over the years, has become almost symbolic of ghettoes and shanty towns in Jamaica.

As was pointed out, the move to conventional fencing not only improves aesthetics but also allows easier police access.

No society can legislate on everything, but in the interest of crime-fighting perhaps the Jamaican authorities should contemplate adjusting building codes to deal with this business of police access.

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