'We are not okay'

'We are not okay'

District constables lament poor treatment by JCF

Senior staff reporter

Friday, June 26, 2020

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A number of the island's district constables (DCs) is crying foul over the “poor” treatment they say is being meted out to them by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), even as the group celebrates District Constable Week.

Two of the DCs, who spoke to the Jamaica Observer on condition of anonymity, out of fear of being victimised, said there is nothing to celebrate.

They mentioned, too, that the United District Constables Association, tasked with representing and defending their interests, has failed to champion their cause, forcing them to launch a petition on their own behalf.

Several calls placed to president of the association Damion Pryce yesterday for a comment went unanswered.

“We do everything that a regular police does, everything you can think of, and we don't get the same treatment. We don't get the same salary and we don't get the same benefits,” one of the DCs communicated to the Observer, adding, “The only difference between us and a regular police is the length of the time we train for versus them, and the uniform we wear.”

A district constable trains for approximately eight weeks, the Observer was told, while a policeman undergoes six months of training.

It is also said that DCs are paid approximately $60,000 per month, while rank and file members of the JCF are paid a minimum of approximately $90,000, excluding allowances.

“Based on where you are assigned, whatever the department entails, that is what you do. They don't say you're a DC so do less work, but once it comes on to benefits, they tell you that you are not a police. They say degrading things to make you feel less than. Certain health benefits they tell you only police can get — only police get housing, travelling, and years of service,” the district constable added.

The DC pointed to the Horizon Park operation in Spanish Town, St Catherine, on June 12, which left two policemen — Detective Corporal Dane Biggs and Constable Decardo Hylton — dead, Superintendent Leon Clunis seriously injured, and district constable Lothan Richards needing surgery.

The latter, the DC claimed, has been left to fend for himself since the incident.

The Observer was told that approximately four district constables were a part of the supposed 11-man team that went on the early-morning operation and were attacked, allegedly by deportee Damion Hamilton, who was later that day cut down by police in Cooreville Gardens, St Andrew.

Richards, the father of a three-week-old baby, was reportedly shot in the leg during the attack and was to undergo surgery on Wednesday.

“You know what hurt us? The fact that he alone fought for like five to 10 minutes or more, out of that shooting... We hear three went down, including Clunis, and the rest took cover. Every time we mention or talk 'bout him, people asking if a district constable did get shot. Nobody nuh know nothing. All the reports talk 'bout the police them who dead and Clunis, then you hear a fourth policeman.

“We are out there doing the same job, risking our lives the same way, and for what? If you tell them that you are not going a particular area to work and point out what the District Constable Act seh, they tell you that the Act is ancient and that they are not following it. But if you complain about working 12 hours without compensation for overtime, they tell you the Act says you are to work and get paid for only 40 hours per week,” the DC lamented.

“We nuh have no representation. We have an association but what can they do? Not a thing. First of all, we don't even know when they have elections. We just hear seh a him a president. What we want to know is why are they treating us so? There is a lot of classism in the force and we at the bottom. We need somebody to look into this. Take today [Wednesday], for example; if it was regular police week the message would be out there. The commissioner would be all 'bout visiting stations and keeping a bagga things, but DC nuh mean nothing,” the DC added.

The district constable said that there is only one arm within the JCF that treats DCs with dignity, and that is the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse.

The second district constable agreed, arguing that the lowly ranked group is finding it difficult to continue accepting poor treatment.

“We're all facing the same thing. We have a WhatsApp group with district constables all over, and we are all saying the same thing — the treatment is horrible. We are doing all that they are doing and we are being paid less. You see because it's a rank-structured organisation, and we are at the bottom, there [are] a lot of things that we can't really say. District constables were on that operation in Horizon Park. If we're not getting the same pay and treatment, why you had them there?

“You working for a month and getting $60,000, come on man, and we're doing as much as regular police. Yuh have sub-officers evaluating you and telling you, 'Good job', but they can't raise your pay because you would be getting the same or more than corporal and constables that [are] senior to you,” the man said.

He insisted that the record is there to show that district constables are and have been working tirelessly without adequate compensation.

“All we are trying to say is put it across the board so that everybody can benefit from it. You can't have we doing all the work for nothing. When they [police officers] striking islandwide, district constables hold up the station. The problem we are facing is that the persons who should be representing us they are not speaking. We are not okay. We are upset and we are feeling it. We nuh have nobody fi talk to, we're not okay. The people them who fi speak up for us a seh we okay; we are not,” the DC stressed.

As a result, he said that a petition launched for improvement in compensation and benefits for DCs has so far garnered 3,000 signatures.

“We need the public to hear us. We need the prime minister to step in and help us,” he said.

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