Police failing basic functions, says PCOA boss
PCOA Chief Executive Officer Otarah Byfield

While Jamaica Police Federation officials were in court yesterday dealing with a claim for overtime pay owed to rank and file cops, many of whom were outside the building protesting for their money, the head of the Police Civilian Oversight Authority (PCOA) accused cops of failing to carry out basic functions that do not require monetary allocations.

“A desire to raise the bar of accountability must be generated and encouraged. There should be strict adherence to basic policing processes and procedures that require very little money and resources. Some people call it low hanging fruits,” PCOA Chief Executive Officer Otarah Byfield said during the announcement of winners in the PCOA's Transforming Our Police Service competition, which was streamed live.

Stating that the PCOA has observed a lack of accountability in key areas of policing, Byfield said that members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), in some cases, are not properly recording statements about crimes, not signing for service weapons, and are failing to protect the property of citizens placed in their care.

She argued that there will be no success in the efforts of the police if such simple procedures continue to be breached.

“If you do not sign to receiving a weapon when beginning your duties, how do you justify discharging that weapon in the public where the circumstances so require? The firearm register is your book of evidence. Does that take a lot of resources?” Byfield said.

“If you don't document a complaint or a statement from a citizen, how can you properly investigate something you have no record of and solve a crime?

“If you do not treat citizens with respect, how can you reasonably expect them to give you information to solve a crime? If you do not accurately record information about persons in custody, how can you swiftly introduce them to the judicial system? If officers do not conduct the required inspections at stations, how will you know about the issues at the station to correct them?” she said, making the point that these processes combined were like the human body with different parts and organs that “all contribute to the overall success of the system”.

Accepting that a let-up in these areas affects the success of the system, Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson said cops must abide by the rules and ensure they treat all citizens with respect.

“The very basic books and records that we keep are critical to the outcomes we achieve and it is also critical for us to recall, years later, what happened in any particular case or circumstance,” Anderson said.

While he agreed that proper records must be kept, the commissioner said that a lot of positive work is being done by members of the JCF who sometimes use personal resources to complete tasks. However, he argued that these efforts are being overshadowed by the nation's emphasis on murders.

“I see officers extending themselves, not only in terms of their work but are extending themselves financially to support some of the activities and operations that we do. That is not an acceptable way of operating, but I commend the officers who actually do that,” Anderson said.

“I know members who bring computers from home to do the work. We have seen them bring their own printer, and I am not making this up. It is unfortunate. They fix vehicles and they do all sorts of things,” the commissioner added.

BY JASON CROSS Observer staff reporter crossj@jamaicaobserver.com

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