The JCF must reinvent and retool itself

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The JCF must reinvent and retool itself

Richard Hugh
Blackford

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

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The Jamaica Constabulary Force is the arm of the Ministry of National Security which is responsible for the maintenance of law and order, the prevention and detection of crime, the investigation of alleged crimes, the protection of life and property, and the enforcement of all criminal laws as defined by the Jamaican penal code. Given the foregoing definition of the police's role, can we, as Jamaicans, realistically claim that our police force has been providing the kind of deliverables required for meeting objectives as defined by its role?

In the last week of 2019, the Jamaica Gleaner published an article in which statements attributed to the current chairman of the Police Federation, Detective Sergeant Patrae Rowe, declared among other things that Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson had been handed a deck of incompetent, inconsiderate, and lazy subordinates who are working against the commissioner's efforts.

The ink containing the Federation chairman's remarks had hardly dried when Superintendent Wayne Cameron, who heads the Police Officers' Association, proceeded to describe Sergeant Rowe's statements as “quite unfortunate as it was found to be very subjective in manner”. Cameron proceeded to scold the detective sergeant on matters of ethical and subservient reporting, an effort which may have garlanded him with much applause from colleagues in the officer corps, but, in reality, did nothing to remove the acrid stench that hovers over, as he puts it, “this noble organisation”.

I want to use this space to, first of all, bring to Superintendent Cameron's attention the fact that in the last 17 years 24,130 Jamaicans have been murdered at an average of 1,419 per year. This, Superintendent Cameron, is a demonstration of the extent to which the police has failed the country. That the police make an arrest in less than 40 per cent of all cases of reported homicides, Superintendent Cameron, is a failure of effective policing. That we convict less than 10 per cent of all murder cases brought before the courts in Jamaica, Superintendent Cameron, is a demonstration of the failure of the police's ability to do the job that they have sworn to do. That, Superintendent, is a failure of the overall leadership corps of the Jamaica Constabulary Force — a leadership corps of which you sit as its chairman.

The truth be told, Jamaica, given its vast criminal burden, is severely under-policed relative to its island neighbours. There are approximately 12,000 policemen on the roll of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, providing a police-to-public service ratio of one cop to 233 citizens. When one considers vacation leave, sickness, shift schedules, and the like, at no time is more than half of the enlisted number available to serve the public, reducing the ration to one cop to more than 400 citizens. Such a situation is completely untenable, and by itself provides the biggest catalyst feeding our criminal culture.

My recommendation is for a complete overhaul of the police force, spearheaded by an expansion of the enlistment to 25,000 cops over the next five years. Such an overhaul should be conducted with the objective of making the Jamaica Constabulary Force a preferred place to work within the next five to 10 years. Instead of lowering the standards, raise the intake requirements to seven Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate passes at the level of constable, and at the technical levels hire candidates with a first degree. In the course of this, move a police constable's salary to between $1.5 million and $2 million at the degreed level. I believe that in paying the police a liveable wage, while providing an environment replete with focused management, reduces the opportunity for skulduggery on the part of its membership. Further, any member who transgress thereafter must be given the full penal treatment.

At the same time, I believe that a forensic personnel audit of the existing police establishment should be conducted with a view to filtering out the undesirables hiding within its establishment. Instead of transferring underperforming senior officers to rural outposts, set clear performance objectives/targets and terminate the services of those incapable of realising these preset objectives. With an expanded establishment it will be easier to expunge the deadweights as identified by Detective Sergeant Rowe.

In the area of training: Team up with the Jamaican academic fraternity to offer a degree programme in criminal justice studies at either the University of Technology, Jamaica or The University of the West Indies, and in time make this course a prerequisite for all police personnel wishing to serve as officers or sub-officers in the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

Then there is the matter of the members of the public whose services must be co-opted into joining in the efforts against criminality. There can be no long-term victory against criminality without the buy-in of the public. The entrenched anti-informer culture has to be overturned. This will take time and a lot of convincing, but without the aid of the public, as a country we will continue to bat naught.

I believe also that, at the Government level, there is a need to seriously invest in raising the technical capabilities of the police force. This means placing more emphasis on the use of forensics, DNA capture, surveillance — all of which are necessary components for building a strong investigative framework and culture within the organisation.

Finally, I believe that at the political level, in the short run, a call must be made to those involved in criminal dealings to cease and desist, failing which will result in the Government using all its resources to come after them with thunder and lightning and brimstone and fire supported by an energised and renewed Jamaica Constabulary Force.

Richard Hugh Blackford is a self-taught artist, writer and social commentator. He shares his time between Lauderhill, Florida, and Kingston, Jamaica. www.yardabraawd.com Send comments to the Observer or richardhblackford@gmail.com.


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