Editorial: Supporting the move on MOCA
Tabling the DNA bill, as groundbreaking as that law will be, was not the only significant procurement made by Peter Bunting, the national security minister, in Parliament last week.
Something that escaped attention was his disclosure that the Cabinet approved drafting instructions for legislation to establish the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) as a body independent of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).
That is an important development that this newspaper championed a year ago when MOCA was reorganised, to encompass formations in the JCF that dealt with corruption-related issues, and placed under the leadership of a seconded army officer, whose reporting was more directly to the minister than to the commissioner of police. Implicit in that arrangement was MOCA's de facto independence, which is now to be made de jure.
We approve of that move then, as we do now, for the opportunity it provides for the creation of a high-quality, elite even, police force, capable of undertaking complex investigations and securing the convictions of criminals, in a manner that for too long has escaped the JCF. Further, as this new independent entity cements itself and grows, it may well provide an option for the authorities, it if comes that, to disband the JCF.
We have not arrived at this position lightly, but on the basis of compelling evidence and analyses that even the most hardened supporters of the police force, including many in its leadership, would likely find irresistible.
Formed as a colonial paramilitary organisation, the JCF has found it hard - although it promises to serve, protect and reassure the citizens of an independent Jamaica - to transition to a police service with the consent of the people to whom it made this commitment. It is perceived to be corrupt, abusive of human rights and resistant, despite the efforts of the past two decades, to significant change.
With a clear-up rate of below 50 per cent, its record for the detection and prosecution of major crimes is low. In the circumstance, there is a sense that Jamaican criminals can act with impunity - almost.
All this, of course, does not mean that we have given up on the JCF. For we note some forward movements, albeit in increments, in recent years. And we retain confidence in the still-new commissioner, Carl Williams.
But for now, until it really gets its act together, the JCF can be made to concentrate on the heavy-lifting aspects of policing: like traffic control, community patrols, petty crime, domestic murders, and the like. The sophisticated investigations, like going after crooks in the government and the higher echelons of the private sector, could be in the remit of MOCA.
In that regard, we expect that the commissioner will establish relative clear jurisdictional demarcations between MOCA - which perhaps ought to be renamed to lessen the sense of it as a kind of task force - and the JCF. Further, the new agency must be subject to civilian oversight to help prevent evolution into the unaccountability that so blighted the JCF.
We propose, too, that the new approach be taken to recruitment to the new MOCA, with the entry level perhaps limited to tertiary education or the possession of specialised and scarce skills.