Devon Dick | Support the police
Say it is not true - the reports that members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) are required by policy to give notice of six months before resignation is effective and failure to do so would lead to a fine and/or imprisonment. Further, the intention is to move it from a policy to an act of Parliament. Apparently, this contemplated action is a response to the attrition rate within the JCF, with reports that more are resigning than those who are being recruited. Hence, there are 1,000 vacancies. In a time of high unemployment, that we have so many vacancies means that something is fundamentally wrong with the terms and conditions of work. It appears unreasonable for a recruit to be trained for six months and then be asked to give notice of six months before one can leave.
The intention of notice was primarily to protect the worker and never was intended to prevent a worker from leaving a job to explore better options. Since employers can dismiss workers without notice and provide financial payment, workers should have that option too. If the issue is the investment of six months training then allow the members of the JCF to pay back the money if no notice is given. The Government can hold on to benefit entitlements in lieu of notice. But even this might not be fair because nurses, teachers and doctors get a longer period of training and there is a greater investment by the people of Jamaica, and these professionals are not so required to pay back their tuition fees before they can go to greener pastures.
The bottom line is that it should never be that to resign from the JCF is a crime. Acquiring such a criminal record could be a hindrance for that member of the JCF getting a job or getting an overseas assignment with the United Nations to make a contribution to worldwide security.
But why retain a constable who wants to leave? Would it not be a potential security risk to have a disgruntled constable with a gun who feels trapped for six months? For the ranks represented by the Jamaica Police Federation, it should be no more than a month, and those of higher rank be required to give three months as notice.
Furthermore, this requirement of six months or a fine and possible prison time will not be attractive to recruits and more qualified recruits. Who would want to be a police officer with such draconian employment conditions? Which upper-class parents would encourage their sons and daughters to join the JCF? The remuneration is not commensurate with the workload, complex nature of the problem, long hours, stress and exposure to death.
Furthermore, when politicians, pastors and private-sector leaders say that we have to be prepared to give up some rights in the crime-fighting effort and the police are seen by the citizens as the ones denying them their rights, this makes the job of policing even more difficult. And those leaders who are calling on others to give up rights, are they willing to tell us which rights they will personally give up in the cause of crime-fighting? No, it is rather the same citizens who have been denied human and civil rights by the criminal network; who have had to agree to a code of silence and take an oath of secrecy and live in a community of seclusion, who now have to give up rights again to the agents of the State. And so, it seems the police are not getting the support from the leaders.
It appears that the contemplated legislation would be counterproductive and have inherent dangers to the effective policing of the nation. It will discourage qualified and fit applicants. What is needed is support for the police by providing the men and women who serve and protect with better working conditions.
- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.