PSOJ tells why it supports SOEs
Police and soldiers talk to a motorist on Maxfield Avenue inKingston at a state of emergency checkpoint in this November 15,2021 file photo.

PRIVATE Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) President Keith Duncan has given support to the states of emergency (SOEs) declared in seven police divisions to help quell the escalating spate of murders across the island.

“If the police commissioner and the commanding officer of the JDF (Jamaica Defence Force) recommend a state of emergency, who am I to say there should be no state of emergency? And when I walk into these communities and I hear the people talk and they feel safer as a result of a state of emergency, that they can now actually feel some freedom to walk the streets, then I have to be supportive. The PSOJ is supportive of the state of emergency,” he told a Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) stakeholders' forum on Wednesday themed 'Policing in a Pandemic'.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness and his Administration have again come in for sharp criticism from the Opposition for the use of SOEs as a long-term crime-fighting measure, as well as for the passage of legislation in Parliament amending the Emergency Powers Act, whilst matters are pending in court surrounding the constitutionality of the continued use of SOEs.

Holness had said that not only does the increase in violent crimes call for immediate intervention, but highlighted there was also a new trend of savagery evident in the type of violence associated with the killings.

The constabulary says the divisions — St James, Hanover, Westmoreland, Kingston Central, Kingston Eastern, St Andrew South, and Kingston West — are seeing increases in homicides ranging from 16 per cent to 57 per cent, all with murder rates ranging from 47 to 97 per 100,000, well in excess of the regional murder rate of 15 per 100,000.

Meanwhile, the PSOJ president said the police have not, over the years, been given the support needed to fight crime in a holistic way.

He said all crime-fighting strategies need to work in order to be effective, including social programmes, legislation and the penal reform for offenders.

“When we look at the social programmes and our education system, if these aren't working it makes it harder for the work of the force. They are hamstrung, and they are fighting with very little capacity. We as a society have created this violent society and we need to ensure now that social programmes work for Jamaica,” Duncan said.

He pointed to the hopelessness facing residents of marginalised and depressed communities, exacerbated by a lack of basic services such as garbage collection.

“I was in Jones Town at a Private Sector Vaccine Initiative site, and garbage wasn't collected in there for months. How do we expect our people to think? And we are then saying the police must deliver? It's a hard road and they have given of their best,” he stated.

Duncan said this is an opportune time for greater emphasis on crime prevention in order to reduce the murder rate.

“It needs a holistic effort and the police [and] the military need to be supported,” he said.

Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson said the country's crime epidemic has raged on despite action against violent offenders and prosecution of criminal gangs and gang members.

He rebutted arguments that normal policing gives the JCF adequate powers to deal with crime.

“It's not true that we can do the same things outside of an SOE, for a number of reasons. We are in a situation which is a pandemic [and] …this thing takes time. For 20 years we have been over 1,000 — what that means is that we have collectively failed. Until we get it [crime] down to real levels, nobody can stand up and beat their chest. We have to keep going, keep working on this. There is nothing we can do that we are not [already] doing at the moment to address this problem. When we put in an SOE it's never instead of anything else — it's always and, not or,” he said.

The JCF is observing Police Week from November 22-28, celebrating its 184th anniversary.

BY ALPHEA SUMNER Senior staff reporter saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

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