'I agree with Justice Sykes'Friday, October 15, 2021
The announcement by the Government that police officers who are close protection officers (CPOs) for judges are to be replaced by private security personnel has been responded to by Chief Justice Bryan Sykes.
The first point to note is that the manner in which the chief justice responded to this announcement suggests that he was not consulted. If it is as it appears, that the chief justice was not consulted, it is a poor decision or egregious oversight by the Minster of National Security Dr Horace Chang and, for this, he owes the chief justice an apology.
The second point to note is that the chief justice was so taken by surprise and was so dissatisfied with the way the announcement was made that he responded by way of the media and not, it appears, by way of a private conversation with Dr Chang.
Justice Sykes raised a number of valid points which, had there been forethought on the part of the Government, these points would have been addressed prior to making the announced changes.
There are adjustments that can be made to the policy of providing close protection officers for judges. However, the changes ought not to be made without the benefit of input from the judges at all levels — from parish judges through to the judges of the Court of Appeal.
It must be said, however, that a way can be found to incorporate private security personnel into the functions and operations of the Jamaica Constabulary Force. If this policy is well thought out and is properly approached we could see a significant number of the 20,000 private security personnel in Jamaica performing duties of a constable, thus increasing the number of personnel under the command of the commissioner of police.
I believe the most important point made by Justice Sykes is that private security personnel do not have the power of arrest and do not have the authority of a constable.
It is my opinion that the time has come for the Government, using the knowledge and expertise of the police and the army, to select suitable and qualified private security personnel, train them up to the level of a special constable and then have them employed in various capacities and stationed in communities throughout Jamaica.
The increased manpower that would be provided by this source could, in many instances, relieve existing CPOs from the duties to which they are now being redeployed and would obviate the need to remove the present CPOs en masse from their current duties of protecting judges. This is not to say that it is not possible to find private security personnel who can be trained up to a level where they can be employed as CPOs.
The important thing to note is the primary concern of Justice Sykes that the CPOs must be clothed in the power of a constable and, as such, would be able to, for example, clear a path through traffic to get the judge to his or her destination safely.
Whatever the final decision, I am in full support of the position taken by Justice Sykes that all judges at every level should be provided with CPOs as they move about in our violence-prone country where indiscipline and poor conduct are features that are seen daily along our roads and in our communities.
It is best that the Government puts a stay on the decision to relocate the CPOs and consults with the chief justice to refine the policy to the satisfaction and comfort of the judges.
Linton P Gordon