Jamaican cops finding life better in the Cayman Islands

BY KIMONE THOMPSON Features editor Sunday thompsonk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, October 21, 2012

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THE Cayman Islands is apparently lapping up former members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), who ostensibly go there in search of better wages and conditions of work.

Human resource officer at the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) Camille Solomon told the Jamaica Observer in an e-mail exchange last week that the force undertook a major recruitment drive this year to fill 50 positions. Thirty-six of them were taken by ex-JCF members.

"There has always been a great deal of interest from officers from the JCF in joining the RCIPS. However, I can confirm that in the past year alone we have recruited 36 Jamaican officers from the JCF," she said.

RCIPS Chief Inspector Robert Scotland added that applications from Jamaicans featured prominently.

"We do open recruitment from time to time, from the Caribbean, the US, Canada and the UK, but mostly from the Caribbean and the UK because of the similarity in structure of the police force," he said. "In the Caribbean, Jamaica and Barbados tend to be our biggest draws."

Asked to describe the Jamaicans' attitude to work and their approach to policing, Solomon gave them a passing grade.

"We have not had any significant areas of concerns and the vast majority of officers from the JCF have adapted well to the British model of policing that we follow as an Overseas Territory police service," he said.

Figures requested from the JCF show that 723 personnel joined its ranks, while a total of 375 of its members either retired or resigned in the year between September 2011 and September 2012. Two hundred and sixty-nine of that number retired, the remaining 106 resigned. The heaviest loss to retirement, which captured early retirement as well as retirement due to the legal age, was in November last year — 44. September 2011, as well as March, May, June, and September this year also registered significant numbers — 28, 22, 24, 22 and 25, respectively.

As for resignations, the biggest loss was three months ago — 18.

The constabulary did not provide the reasons for the early retirements and the resignations, but in two previous Sunday Observer pieces, some members of the JCF stationed at different posts across the island complained that the difficult conditions under which they worked was causing them elevated levels of stress, which manifested in their physical and mental well-being, and spilled over into their personal lives. Some of the unsavoury working conditions to which they pointed were 12- to 18-hour work days, service vehicles that were without windows, stations that were in varying states of disrepair — including leaking roofs, were easily flooded, and some that were not equipped with sanitary conveniences — poor treatment by senior officers, and limited scope for professional advancement.

Another nerve spot was the accelerated programme through which holders of university degrees can bypass entry level ranks and assume junior officer positions. Recruits under this programme spend two years on probation during which they are assigned to police stations to learn the job from the ground up, before being transferred to specialised units.

In theory, however, some cops allege that's not the way it works. They claim that the degree recruits are being assigned to special squads without having served probation. Some of them also seem bothered by what they describe as having to teach the degree officers the work of policing.

"While some people have to work in the sun all day every day, they come in and get promotion and nuh pay no dues yet," a Clarendon-based cop charged.

The various woes, they said, contributed to a lowering of the force's perceived prestige and caused them to be experiencing low morale. As a result, several of them said, they were planning on retiring early.

"Most of the people joining force now are not doing it because of love for the job, but because of economic conditions," one female cop who hails from St Elizabeth said. "The people now joining at 30 or 35 have already been battered by lost jobs and being made redundant; they have only two options: joining the JCF or running taxi."

"People are frustrated, but people can't talk because of the media policy," a police constable said. The policy says, inter alia, that communication between the JCF and the media should only be done through the Constabulary Network Communication or the force's communication director.

Referring to the numbers who have enlisted in the Cayman police service, a woman constable who has been at that rank since she enlisted more than 10 years ago, said "People who JCF nuh have nuh use for; who pass exam but not being promoted, Cayman find use for them."

A highly placed Kingston policeman told the Sunday Observer late last month that "about 30 members, from constable to sergeant, have gone to Cayman in the last three months. I know of 10 in my immediate surroundings."

An officer from Mandeville added: "About nine of them from Mandeville gone to Cayman and Bermuda in the past few months, and more are going."

A Clarendon-based cop also weighed in: "Most of the experienced persons — sergeants, inspectors — are leaving the force. People who have more than 30 years; the people who should be moulding the youngsters."

He said he knew "more than 25" cops who left the force "in the past five years".

"The main reason is the scope for promotion is not there because once you reach certain age you're being overlooked and I don't see why. Once yuh reach 40, 45 yuh being overlooked and that is unfair because recruitment age stop at 40. So if yuh good enough to come in at 40, why yuh not good enough to get promotion at 40?"

To illustrate the point, another policeman, who has more than 30 years' service, said he has only been recommended for one development course, outside of the mandatory firearm and customer service training.

"Only one corporal development course mi go pon, an a beg mi haffi beg fi go pon it," he said.

The RCIPS, meanwhile, uses overlapping eight-hour flexible shifts during an eight-hour-work week. Its recruitment brochure for 2009 listed the basic annual starting salary for a police constable as KYD$32,280 per annum (1KYD = J$110.151). Added to that are allowances for housing (CI$7,800), operations (KYD$1,800) and laundry ($900). The total monthly pay inclusive of allowances is KYD$3,565.

It doesn't appear that these salaries have been shaved in the past three years, or that recruitment has been deferred as a result of the global economic downturn, for, according to the RCIPS website, "while the Government has declared a moratorium on recruitment across the civil service to mitigate the impact of the global financial crisis and economic slow down on its budget, it maintains that the appointment of essential personnel such as policemen, doctors, nurses and other specialised positions will not be affected".

The Cayman Islands, which sits 180 miles northwest of Jamaica, comprises approximately 101 square miles of land.

JCF attrition rates September 2011 to September 2012

Sep-11 Oct-11 Nov-11 Dec-11 Jan-12 Feb-12 Mar-12 Apr-12 May-12 Jun-12 Jul-12 Aug-12 Sep-12

Retirement 28 18 44 5 15 11 22 11 24 22 14 19 25

Resignation 9 6 7 12 3 2 10 1 14 11 18 6 7

NB. 723 Personnel were enlisted between September 2011 and September 2012

(Source: JCF)

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