Police sharpen to work with vulnerable groups

Monday, June 22, 2015

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RUNAWAY BAY, St Ann -- With two weekends of training seminars completed, members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) are expected to be more aware of the diverse groups in society and to better understand the safety and security issues facing them.

Fifty members of the JCF underwent two-day diversity training sessions at the Jewel Paradise Cove in St Ann over two weekends. Twenty-five members were trained in the first session with another 25 completed the training sessions yesterday.

The training sessions, which were held in partnership between the JCF and the USAID/COMET II project, saw the law enforcers being made aware of how to deal with vulnerable groups in carrying out their duties. The areas of focus were women and girls, people living with disabilities, marginalised youth and the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.

Guest speaker at the opening ceremony on Friday, June 12, Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry, commended the JCF for the creation and implementation of its diversity policy. She also praised the USAID for working with the JCF to host the training sessions.

"One size does not necessarily fit all," she pointed out, insisting that every Jamaican had her own expectations and deserves equal treatment, and so the policy was a positive step in that direction.

Harrison Henry said that the Jamaican legal framework has been slow to recognise the increasing diversity in the population. She called on participants in the training seminars to make use of the training which will enhance their professional and technical skills and which allow them to carry out their duties conscientiously.

"As public servants, sometimes we have to stop and reflect on who is the public that we serve," she said.

She reminded the police that to serve and to protect was not only a moral duty but also a legal one.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Dr Gary Welsh said the training is not only for the Community Safety and security Branch but for the entire JCF. However, focus is placed on members of the Community Safety Branch (CSSB) because they interface with the public on a daily basis.

He said that the police diversity policy was rolled out in 2012.

"This training now helps to empower our officers to understand the training and how to use it as a tool in delivering service to our various groups. The persons who have been selected have been picked from all divisions across the country so that when they go back they will be the trainers," Bishop Welsh said.

Members from Respect Jamaica also participated in the sessions.

"We partnered with the USAID because we felt that this initiative is here to serve and protect and is dealing with a diverse group of Jamaicans. If they understand how to deal with each group then that will strengthen their ability to serve and protect," said Anna-Kim Robinson, programme manager of Respect Jamaica.

Donaree Muirhead, training coordinator and community policing coordinator with the USAID Comet II, encouraged members of the JCF to approach the training with open minds. She urged them to put away preconceived conceptions and be willing to share their views on situations so that they will leave the training with clarity.

She said the objectives of the training sessions included raising the awareness of the police as it pertains to the nuances of the diverse groups in society, to better understand the safety and security issues and challenges facing the diverse groups to increase the capacity of the CSSB to develop interventions that are inclusive or are specific to the needs of diverse groups, to enable the police to maintain professionalism in the discharge of duties, to treat with dignity and respect, uphold and preserve the human rights of all irrespective of who the individual is or to which group a person belongs.

The training facilitators were experienced and recognised persons who are leading voices for the diverse groups.

They included Rochelle McFee of WE Change; Taitu Heron, UN Women Jamaica Programme; Gloria Goffe, Combined Disabilities Association, and Miguel Williams, programme development Specialist at the Ministry of Youth and Culture.

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