POLICE Commissioner Owen Ellington has blamed the response of the criminal justice system for frustrating some of the constabulary's operational successes.
According to Ellington, the police force seizes well over 600 illegal guns from criminals each year, confiscates thousands of pounds of illegal drugs, arrests serious gun offenders and murderers, some of them multiple murderers. However, "the problems in the criminal justice system are actually undoing the effective operational initiatives that are being mounted by the police on a regular basis".
"This is described as policy lag," the police commissioner told yesterday's meeting of the Sessional Select Committee on Human Resources and Social Development at Gordon House in downtown Kingston.
"Policy lag occurs when there is a mismatch between strategies and the laws that support strategies. Most countries around the world have recognised this problem. The United Nations have discussed this problem at length. Jamaica has been lagging behind in terms of some of the laws required to deal effectively with group crimes," the police chief said.
"What we are asking for is policy advocacy. Our policing strategies are good. We compare them with policing strategies across the world and we are seeing where many of our strategies are far superior to those being applied elsewhere," the police commissioner said.
He voiced strong support for the anti-gang legislation now being debated and said the police were also recommending that mandatory minimum sentences be imposed for certain offences.
He gave these examples as the basis for the call.
"Guns kill well over a thousand Jamaicans in any given year. Between Saturday night and Sunday morning 16 Jamaicans were shot. Yesterday (Heroes' Day), seven Jamaicans were murdered. In one case yesterday (Tuesday) a young woman, seven months pregnant who was the victim of an armed robbery earlier this year, was at home when the robbery suspect came into her home, shot her once in the head and twice in the stomach, killing her on the spot," the police commissioner told the committee.
"Criminals have no fear whatsoever about using illegal guns to shoot our citizens. I can sit here and say to any person intending to visit certain foreign countries what the consequences will be if you take illegal drugs into those countries or illegal weapons.
"As commissioner of police I cannot say to any citizen what the likely punishment will be if you are held with a ton of cocaine or an illegal gun in Jamaica because the sentencing regime does not convey that strong, consistent message," he said.
"We recommend, therefore, strengthening revision of the plea bargaining legislation, and I know this is being considered but we believe it should be treated as a matter of urgency," Commissioner Ellington said.