Political leaders welcome private sector crime talks

Political leaders welcome private sector crime talks

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

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PRIME Minister Andrew Holness says that if the country can find a basis for agreement on critical priorities, then it can make significant political progress.

He was speaking on Monday at the National Consensus on Crime at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.

Holness said that it is not that the country has never been able to reduce the crime rate, which has risen, dipped and levelled off every two to three years with the changes in administrations and the redirection that coincide with change in leadership.

“One thing we can say about the changes is that, over time, the graph still trends up. So we need to figure out what are the policies that work, the initiatives that work, and maybe the leadership styles and strategies that work, and ensure that there are continuities across administrations, and the only way to get to that is to have this kind of consensus,” he said.

He described the documents produced by the Crime Monitoring and Oversight Committee of the private sector group, which brought the two main political parties to agree on a number of proposals aimed at reducing crime, as a watershed moment because it brought together the people who can make a difference and who can make things happen.

Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips also welcomed the oversight body, which includes stakeholders from the private sector, civil society and academia. He said he was pleased that the effort of these stakeholders had led to the resumption of the Vale Royal Talks after a November 2019 forum at the Jamaica Conference Centre, which led to the formation of the working group.

“But we give thanks to all who made it possible that we are now at this point,” the Opposition leader said.

Efforts to transform the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) in order to increase the country's efforts at reducing major crimes highlighted the consensus reached between the political leaders and the private sector monitoring and oversight committee as they signed the agreement.

According to the agreement, several aspects of the transformation of the JCF would be fast-tracked to meet deadlines included in the report.

It said that the transformation of the force is one of the most important components of the agreement, which included: Prioritisation of plans to strengthen the Inspectorate with adequate audit and anti-corruption capability by the end of September; passage of the “Integrity of the Security Forces” legislation by the end of June 2021; and increasing the strength of the force from approximately 12,000 to 14,000 members by mid-2022.

The training and development systems of the JCF, upgrading of its radio and data communication network and its mobile fleet, as well as the physical infrastructure of stations and facilities, which are to be refurbished or rebuilt by the end of 2021, were also included.

In terms of improvements to conditions under the states of emergency (SOEs), the Government and the Opposition agreed to support the use of the military, as permitted by law, in geographic areas where the homicide rate is above 32 per 100,000. This was also extended to include where the level of violence supercedes the JCF's ability, and where the police commissioner and the JDF's chief of defence staff agree that it is necessary.

Whenever tribunals are required, they will be put in place within 24 hours of the military being deployed and their composition established.

Resources will also need to be in place to provide the public defender the flexibility to increase the capacity as needed. Detainees will be provided improved access to the tribunal, and inspection of lock-ups and detention centres will be carried out by lay magistrates and parish judges.

A special task force is also to be assembled by September to review the Procurement Act and to focus on ensuring that State resources are not diverted to organised crime or corruption, to review the Bribery Act and make further recommendations. Parliament will review the implementation of these recommendations by mid-2021.


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