Police Federation says several teetered on the brink

CHAIRMAN of the Jamaica Police Federation Corporal Rohan James has blasted the Government for shorting the Chaplaincy Branch of the constabulary much-needed funds to tend to the psychological welfare of police officers, a number of whom he says, “are going through serious depression” and teetered on the brink of instability in 2021 but for the interventions of that unit.

“From where I sit, the federation has observed that a number of our members are going through serious depression and oftentimes what has happened is that the limited resources have not given the Chaplaincy Branch the capacity to respond in a real time way,” James told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

“It is the lowest in terms of the morale that the membership have felt in the history of the constabulary; 2021 was a low place. The Band-Aid approach to the constabulary is not what is required at this time. Treat with the infrastructure and the aesthetics and the resources,” James said.

“If we are given the resources and the Chaplaincy Branch is operating at an efficient level and the force is able to operate at optimal level, then investigative capacity, among other things, will be improved and citizens will get the service that will mitigate them having to seek revenge,” said James.

According to the police federation chair, what is often hid from public attention is the fact that, while allocations are made in the budget, the resources are afterwards shifted to the army or some other area.

“The constabulary oftentimes has to be operating below par, and members have to be subsidising national security. The time has come for the Government to see to the needs of the people. You cannot continue to tie the hands of the membership and expect national security to be as it should be,” he charged.

The federation head was elaborating on statements he made earlier Wednesday morning during a prayer breakfast hosted by the Non-Geographic Formation No 2 Chaplaincy Services Branch at the AC Mariott Hotel in the Corporate Area, under the theme “H.E.L.P. (Help Eliminate Lifestyle Problems) Us, Oh Lord”.

Addressing the gathering at that time, he said 2021 had been one of the lowest points for the constabulary in terms of morale and emotional well-being with the services of the Chaplaincy Branch becoming even more of a staple.

“The theme is very befitting at this time. Over the years we have experienced the challenges, but never before have we trod through so many treacherous waters where the uncertainties were so many that not even the game of cricket could outdo what we experienced in 2021,” James declared.

“The Chaplaincy Branch has been doing a superb job because the minds of the members of the constabulary force have been tested at best, and while it is that we were used as scapegoats, in many quarters it is still the affirmation and the hands-on approach of our chaplains and peer counsellors that made it possible for the mental faculties of our members to remain intact,” he said to applause.

“If we value the men and women of the constabulary their well-being and welfare must be taken wholeheartedly into consideration, the resources must be deposited so that we can maximise our potential as a nation,” the federation head said further.

Yesterday, Chief Chaplain Pastor Dr Gary Buddoo-Fletcher said the branch, as the first responders of the JCF to its members, continues to build capacity in order to respond appropriately to the psycho-social needs of members.

The branch, he said, has seven assistant chaplains, 32 peer counsellors, and approximately 150 volunteers. He said 20 of the 32 have bachelor's degrees in counselling and or psychology. Among the 32 are four with master's degrees in counselling and/or psychology, and eight with diplomas in those fields.

In the meantime, guest speaker, president of the West Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Pastor Glen Samuels called for more to be done for the members of the constabulary.

“I don't know the cost of SOEs [states of emergency], and I am not knocking them because I do know that there are times when in the tool kit and the rule book there might not be anything much to try in that moment of challenge. But could it be that forward thinking or planning could say that, from 2023, we are going to find and frontload the money for SOEs and those other huge initiatives that must cost a lot and say we are going to budget against those by putting some more on the salaries of those who every day make the ultimate sacrifice?” Samuels said.

“I do believe that contented cows make the most milk. I do believe that we can't do things the way we have always done them and expect a different kind of result,” he said.

The Ministry of National Security on Tuesday, in the supplementary budget unveiled by the Government in Parliament, was given an additional $1.4 billion more, including $197 million for the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) coastal surveillance grid power supply. The police got an additional $1.8 billion to purchase motor vehicles, stores and armoury. Included was a sum of $616 million to conduct general police services. It was not immediately clear if the sum represents allocations for the zones of special operations (ZOSOs) now underway.

Jamaica Police Federation Chairman Corporal Rohan James addressing Wednesday's prayer breakfast, hosted by the Chaplaincy Services Branch, at the AC Mariott Hotel in St Anderw.
BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Senior staff reporter dunkleywillisa@jamaicaobservr.com

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