Clarity needed on JDF's role in fighting crime


Clarity needed on JDF's role in fighting crime

Friday, January 03, 2020

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On Sunday this week we featured two articles with interviews done by Brigadier Radgh Mason of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).

The first article, headlined 'Brigadier swears to effective crime reduction move next year', represents a seismic shift in the protocol of the JDF in dealing with the daunting and perplexing fight against all major crimes in Jamaica.

Brigadier Mason, by virtue of his Sunday interview, has seemingly taken over the role prescribed in law to the commissioner of police, who himself is a former chief of defence staff.

As far as we understand it, the role of fighting crime in Jamaica is the signature prerogative of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), with support given by the JDF when circumstances demand the army's intervention.

Under the Defence Act the JDF has responsibility for the defence and protection of Jamaica from external forces or threat to the sovereignty of the island. The JDF also supports the maintenance of order in Jamaica as well as any other duties that may occasionally be defined by the Defence Board.

The Defence Board is under the general authority of the prime minister, who has ministerial responsibility for defence matters, including command, discipline, and administration.

The support mentioned in the Defence Act is offered to the police force.

Thus, for a top-ranking member of the JDF to publicly grant an interview revealing a target of 50 per cent, set by the security forces, to decrease criminal activities in problematic areas is most unusual.

We believe that Brigadier Mason, despite the logic of his arguments, is stepping out of his army formation and is treading precariously on turf reserved for the JCF.

Maybe the JDF, and Brigadier Mason in particular, have been emboldened by the number of states of emergency (SOEs) and the zones of special operations (ZOSO), which have been put in place in sections of Jamaica over the last 18 months. It is well known that under an SOE soldiers are given the powers of arrest which is not usually a part of their armoury in normal situations.

If, indeed, there is a new order, then the public needs to be informed so as not to be misled on the streets. Plus, it is only common decency to communicate with the population, if such a fundamental change has been made.

This newspaper is not, for one moment, suggesting that the JDF be removed from its role in fighting crime, we just want to know if a new protocol is now in existence.

It is therefore incumbent on Prime Minister Andrew Holness, as the minister of defence, and the present Chief of Defence Staff Lieutenant General Rocky Meade to provide some clarity in this matter.

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