Keith Gardner | Arresting cops against their will
The recent requirement for sub-officers and constables to give six months' notice of their intention to withdraw from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) may prove as difficult to enforce as the Public Health Tobacco Control Regulation which forbids smoking in public places has.
The first challenge is that it may dissuade interested parties from joining the JCF because of the threat of being fined or imprisoned should either the condition of service or some personal or other reason cause them to leave within a relatively short period, or if they choose to use the force as a stepping stone to more lucrative opportunities.
As a 40-year veteran of the force leaving at the commissioning rank and having, at one time, responsibility for more than 2,000 members of the JCF while an area officer, I observed that comparatively few policemen serve the force beyond 10 years. Many leave with little or no notice and for various reasons.
Condition of service
The second challenge includes condition of service. There have been times when police stations have been so dilapidated that constables living in barracks have an unobstructed view of the stars on a clear night, because of the deterioration of the stations. Poor working conditions have, in the opinion of many retired officers, been a contributing factor to the deterioration in discipline of many policemen because of the change in policy that allows police officers to live outside of barracks in private quarters where they are unsupervised, and which facilitates involvement in nefarious activities.
The third challenge is the burgeoning crime rate. In addition, many police personnel are underequipped and overworked.
The fourth reason for policemen exiting the force at this pace are the opportunities that are open to them both at home and abroad. Perhaps this is the only area in which the Act may be effective because of the necessity of a favourable recommendation from the force. Notwithstanding, officers will still continue in their quest for more favourable occupational engagement.
The fifth reason is that the lack of mentors within the JCF seems to expedite the exodus. There was a time when young policemen were subjected to the guidance of well-rounded divisional sub-officers.
The quality and commitment of divisional training sub-officers have deteriorated over the years. This is buttressed by the fact that many of the policemen joining the force use it as a launching pad to get a visa to the United States or some other country.
Although there may be good reasons for enacting this piece of legislation, it must be judiciously balanced against the ills. A policeman or policewoman who is forced to remain in the JCF against his or her will may become frustrated and direct that frustration either against members of the organisation or the public. The officer may become lethargic, underproductive, undisciplined or, worse yet, engaged in conduct that brings the force into disrepute.
The idea of sending a police officer to prison to share quarters with criminals who he or she may have arrested merely because that officer has disengaged from the force, for whatever reason, does not seem to be good policy. It criminalises the officer at a time when ganja is possession and use of ganja is being decriminalised.
The sixth reason is that disenchanted policemen may have the tendency of ignoring offences, which will trigger spiralling crime rates.
- Keith M.D. Gardner is an attorney-at-law and retired assistant commissioner of police. He is currently director of security for the University of the West Indies, Mona. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.