Finally! Gov't approves JCF, ISCF merger
Move will put more cops on the streets, say Bunting, Ellington
MORE than a decade after it was first recommended, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and its main auxiliary Island Special Constabulary Force (ISCF) are to be merged, a move that the authorities say will place more cops on the streets as the country battles its nagging crime problem.
Shortly after news emerged yesterday that the Cabinet had approved the merger, National Security Minister Peter Bunting and Police Commissioner Owen Ellington highlighted a number of positives from the decision.
"We will eliminate a lot of the inefficiencies of having two command structures, separate offices, separate administration," Bunting told the Jamaica Observer at Emancipation Park during the National Safe Schools Peace Day Concert attended by hundreds of students and staged to promote peace in schools.
"By combining them you will release more personnel to be on the streets patrolling communities, working in crime control and crime prevention," said Bunting.
Commissioner Ellington, in a later interview with the Observer, agreed.
"I think the public stands to benefit greatly from it," Ellington said, adding that the merger will increase the strength of the JCF to just under its 12,000 establishment.
"It should result in a net increase in the numbers that are deployed on the streets as we give up a lot of administrative and support services that are duplicated because we had to maintain two command structures," Ellington said.
Noting that the merger will be effected during the 2014/2015 financial year, Bunting said the financial implication would be minimal.
"The truth of the matter is that the salaries were almost identical before. There will be a marginal top up for the ISCF members; but in the scheme of things, it is not even one-tenth of the budget of the police force," the minister said.
"Salaries will be the same for the rank equivalent. We have done studies in terms of rank equivalent and they will come in on the JCF scale of salaries. They will carry their benefits, the years of service will count towards their pension, etc and they will be fully integrated into the various divisional formation and branches," he said.
But even as the minister addressed the issue, some ISCF cops were said to be uneasy.
"There is a level of uneasiness out there as a number of rank and file members are still not clear what will be the implications," said Joel Betty, acting chairman of the
Betty said, since news of the merger was released, the ISCF office has been flooded with calls from concerned members.
"The concern of our members is how will it affect them or will they be at a disadvantage," Betty said, adding that he was eagerly awaiting information to pass on to members.
Commissioner Ellington assured, though, that now that the policy had been approved by Cabinet the police high command is in a better position to speak more about it.
"Even the questions that they had, which we couldn't previously answer, we can now let them know because the thing is approved," he said.
Asked by the Observer to explain some of the changes under the merger, Ellington said that ISCF cops will change from their traditional 'blue seam' uniform to the JCF's 'red seam'.
He also said that ISCF members will have to assume new JCF numbers which will be issued to them.
Asked whether ISCF cops will be required to undergo more training, given the time difference in the instruction period of the two forces, Ellington said 'no'.
"Over the last few years we have been improving on their initial training, and we have been including them in the supervisory, management and leadership training for the regular constabulary," he said. "So, in effect, we have been putting the merger in place for several years. It's not going to be very difficult as there's not much of a skill gap to close when those individuals come across."
Ellington said he was "very happy" with the decision as it was something that he had been advocating for a long time.
The merger was first recommended by the Wolfe Report of 1991 and has been put forward by five separate reports and studies since.