Washington, DC's top cop advocates better pay for JCF

Make life easier for them and then you will see a change, says Jamaican Donald Green

Observer staff reporter

Friday, August 10, 2018

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Washington, DC — USA Officer of the Year 2017 Donald Green believes that the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) could attract a stronger cadre of cops if members were better remunerated and had improved working conditions.

Green, a former lance corporal in the Jamaica Defence Force, left the island 15 years ago for what he said was a better life.

However, he still harbours thoughts of returning the island to share his expertise with the JCF.

The 43-year-old, who joined the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia four years ago, is assigned to the Gun Recovery Unit, where he was last year named top cop.

“I've thought about coming back in a few years to bring all that I've learnt to the force. I think the tactics of the JCF need to improve. Even in a simple traffic stop the way I observe them approach the vehicle — the approach is wrong. It's totally different than what we do,” Green, who is wrapping up a visit to the island, told the Jamaica Observer in an interview at the newspaper's Kingston headquarters yesterday.

“If there are 10 police officers on the road and a vehicle is stopped, all 10 most definitely would not approach that vehicle. If there are two people in the vehicle, two officers approach and at all times stay behind the occupants in the vehicle. That way, if any of them tried anything we would be in an advantageous position. I'm not seeing that here,” Green said.

The man, who grew up on Payne Avenue in the St Andrew Southern constituency, and who has had previous encounters with members of the JCF, believes that the way in which local cops generally interact with citizens can be reformed.

Pointing to the experience of the police in the US, where almost every encounter with a citizen is recorded, and the situation in Jamaica, where mistrust of cops exists, Green said a sensitisation campaign by the Ministry of National Security would help police/citizen interaction and relationship.

“They have to change how they approach people. They have to change how they talk to people. In the US, complaints are made and something is done about it. In Jamaica, complaints are made but swept under the rug. The relationship needs to be more personal between the two parties. It should not be [that] I am the authority so do as I say,” he stated.

While admitting that the day-to-day encounters on the job can be strenuous and frustrating, Green theorised that better pay and working conditions would help significantly.

“They need to pay them more,” he said. “You are asking them to put their lives on the line to ensure safety. You are asking them to leave their families to do a job many will think twice about doing. Pay them! But it's not only that. To get rid of corruption you have to pay more than corruption. You have to look at a civil servant's salary and ask is this enough for what we are asking them to do?

“You have to give them benefits. You have to look at working conditions. You have to make life easier for them and then you will see a change. I make no excuse for them, but part of the reason for corruption in the force stems from wages,” Green argued.

“On the other hand, in the States, if an officer is suspected of being corrupt the intelligence unit will investigate him or her. If that person is found guilty, they are punished according to the law. We are held to such a high standard. It's so hard. You are held accountable for everything you do. Even when off duty you are still held to that standard,” he said.

“The first thing is that you are not allowed to drink and be in possession of a firearm. If you do that, and you are caught, you are off the frontline for a while. If you shoot someone you are sent to the doctor to check your blood alcohol level. They also test for drugs. I don't know if that is the case here, but if not, it needs to happen,” the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Haile Selassie High School past student said.

In fact, Green was critical of the snail's pace at which the JCF is moving to have cops wear body cameras, given strained relations between the police and residents in troubled communities across the island.

“I'm 100 per cent with it. It helps a lot. ...I know it is hard getting it properly implemented here, but they badly need it. It's going to help curb a lot of actions because the only time they are allowed to turn it off is when they go to the bathroom,” he said.

“Implementing it will help. The issues that the JCF is having can be fixed. It won't happen immediately, but working from top to bottom will help,” he said.

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