OCHO RIOS, St Ann — National Security Minister Peter Bunting has sought to allay the fears of members of the Island Special Constabulary Force (ISCF) that they will be discriminated against and lose benefits when that organisation is merged with the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).
The national security minister was addressing the 28th annual joint central conference of the Special Constabulary Force Association at Sunset Jamaica Grade Resort last Thursday, where its newly installed president expressed concern about the pending merger.
Special Inspector Andrew Johnson said during recent visits across the island, ISCF members had unanimously rejected the merger in the format it has been proposed.
"If the minister (Bunting) as a matter of policy, is going to go with a merger and the proper legislative framework is put in place, we have no option. What we ask for is the protection of the rights of our members going into any such thing," Johnson cautioned.
Bunting said the proposed merger of ISCF, JCF and the district constabulary is the first step towards bringing the different police organisations under one umbrella -- the Police Management Authority (PMA).
He explained that the merger of the groups is an opportunity to optimise resources and bring all police operations under a single command structure and eliminate overlapping functions between the three organisations.
"I want to disabuse anybody who thinks that it (the merger) is based on any concern that the ISCF is somehow not up to par. That is not a consideration at all," Bunting stressed.
"I have made it very clear to the Commissioner of Police (Owen Ellington) and I am going to hold him accountable, when this merger goes ahead there must be absolutely no discrimination," Bunting said.
"There must be no disadvantage in any way from moving over, whether it be years of service you carry with you, whatever pension rights you have etc, the transition itself must not disadvantage."
Bunting emphasised that the ISCF has evolved over the years and commended its members for their professionalism and contribution to policing and crime-fighting.
"It's not just in dealing with traffic or dealing with praedial larceny, but in the tougher areas. For example, the Tivoli operation, I'm told that an ISCF unit was right up there in the tip of the spear of the thrust of the assault into Tivoli Gardens," Bunting said.
Johnson said that among other things, the members were concerned about the protection of their pension and other benefits and vowed that the association would do everything in its power to ensure that members' rights are not infringed.
He said the ISCF over the years, but especially since it received its mandate in 2002, has done well in all areas it has been asked to perform and has helped place a serious dent in crime.
"We believe that if we continue to work in this way, if we continue to work within our mandate, giving support to the JCF where it is requested and is necessary, I believe that this formula is a successful one and should continue to be engaged."
Commissioner Ellington, meanwhile, in his address at the conference said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the concerns of the ISCF and the merger since there has been no policy statement yet on the issue from the Government.