OCHO RIOS, St Ann — The Police Officers' Association (POA) bluntly told the Government yesterday that it would not be accepting a wage freeze and called on the Administration to pass laws that would enhance the effectiveness of the police.
"We cannot accept a wage freeze for 2012/2014," Superintendent Merrick Watson, the POA's outgoing chairman declared at the association's annual conference at the Jewel Beach and Golf Resort in Runaway Bay, St Ann.
According to Watson, it has been five years since the officers received an increase in their salary. He said that while the POA is willing to work with the Government, the State has a responsibility to create an enabling environment for productivity.
Watson's declaration received strong support from POA members who met under the theme 'Police Management Transcending Borders After 50 Years of Political Independence'.
Watson also addressed several other issues he said the police were facing and called on the Government to do more to help in the fight against crime.
He pointed to the anti-gang legislation that has been languishing in the Parliament, adding that it needs to be passed as most of the vicious crimes committed in Jamaica are gang-related.
The gangs, he said, operate almost with impunity "as they know we do not have legislative reach to disrupt their operations permanently".
"While the leadership of the police force is strategically positioned... in terms of operational output and its leadership capabilities, to deal with the crime situation we can do so much and no more without the help of the lawmakers," Watson said.
"These gangs have been preying on the citizens of this country for far too long, and so we are asking the lawmakers to give us legislation and we will do the rest," he added.
He also joined in the call for speedy implementation of DNA legislation, arguing that criminals have become more knowledgeable and sophisticated, therefore law enforcement must be developed in order to effectively counter criminal operations.
He said that in other jurisdictions, DNA legislation has not only allowed the police to apprehend criminals, it has helped to reduce crimes and save lives.
Watson also urged the Government to revise "archaic laws" and bring them in line with present realities.
In addition, he spoke to the environment in which many police officers work daily, saying that is not conducive to productivity.
Watson's successor as POA chairman is Senior Superintendent Glenford Hudson, while Superintendent Steve McGregor has been returned as deputy chairman.