Cops take flight

UWI moves to help police stem heavy attrition rate; only two of 15 cyber crimes experts left

BY JAVENE SKYERS
Observer staff reporter
skyersj@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, August 18, 2017

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THE worrisome attrition rate in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) astonished guests at a function on the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus yesterday when Deputy Commissioner of Police Clifford Blake revealed that only two experts of the 15 trained for the Cyber Crimes Unit have remained.

“Three years ago we trained 15 cyber experts to analyse electronic equipment and this morning we only have two of those persons remaining,” Blake said at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the UWI, Ministry of National Security and the JCF.

“Next month we will train another 10 persons at a cost of $12 million,” Blake added, drawing more reactions of surprise from the audience.

Under the MOU, the university will provide lodging for 300 JCF recruits for a six-month period, twice per year, among other provisions while they are in training.

While the JCF welcomes the move made by the university, Blake has said that key focus needs to be placed on retaining cops, many of whom are leaving the force for better opportunities.

He noted that the JCF's current establishment stands at 14,092, but their working strength as at yesterday morning was 11,433.

“In 2015, we graduated 244 persons and during that same time 514 left the organisation through resignation, retirement and dismissal, and in 2016 we graduated into the organisation 495 persons (and) last year 544 persons exited the organisation, so we continue to operate at a deficit,” Blake, who was speaking on behalf of Commissioner of Police George Quallo, stated.

He explained that from exit interviews, the factors that contributed to the attrition rate in most instances were persons seeking opportunities elsewhere. He highlighted a recent instance where the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force welcomed 13 new members, 12 of whom were former members of the JCF.

“So not only do we continue to lose people, we continue to lose some of our best persons,” he said. “We need to look at a retention strategy to see how do we keep our members in the organisation.”

He said that it is clear that several areas such as job satisfaction, salary, better working conditions, promotion, among others need to be critically examined.

However, Blake stated that the signing of the MOU is still highly significant to the JCF as it represents additional personnel coming into the organisation.

“Each day I encounter my commanders, the first question they ask is 'when are we going to get more persons?' There is a significant shortage out there and not only the commanders, whenever you go committee meetings, it's the same question,” the deputy commissioner said.

In noting the importance of the MOU to increasing numbers, Blake also stated that the additional capacity of up to 200 spaces within the new training unit at Mobile Reserve will significantly add to the intake number.

He implored Jamaicans to step up and play a part in helping the JCF in crime fighting and thanked the UWI for its contribution.

Pro Vice Chancellor and Principal of the UWI, Mona Professor Archibald McDonald also signalled that the university, through the MOU, was taking what some people may consider an unconventional stance to help in the fight against crime.

He said modern policing calls for not just fighting but also thinking men and women, and so the UWI's response to the crime situation is not one of fear and retreat but proactive solutions.

He said that the university will aim to take the police force to their full service capacity of 14,000 through the training of 300 recruits every six months, which will take about three years to achieve.

“This will provide the JCF with 600 graduates per year to help negate the attrition rate,” he said. “Students will be housed in residence during the period of training on the Mona campus and lecture rooms will be provided and configured where necessary.”

Other points under the MOU include having final year social work degree students collaborating with police to go into communities to assist with social intervention initiatives, which the principal noted are critical if the Zones Of Special Operations initiative is to succeed.

He also said that the UWI School of Engineering as well as Computer Science Department will be collaborating with the JCF to have a cyber team to identify criminals, especially scammers, and improve efficiency for police officers.

He added that the university will provide a space for the unit, while also noting that training for recruits will be enhanced with input from senior members of the UWI staff to include forensics, human rights as well as other security issues.

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