Fri | Sep 18, 2020

'Fit-for-duty' policy proposed for cops

Published:Tuesday | January 19, 2016 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell

Chief Executive Officer of the Police Civilian Oversight Authority (PCOA) Dave McIntosh is suggesting that the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) should seriously consider introducing a 'fit-for-duty' policy aimed at mitigating risks of criminal and errant behaviour in the force. He indicated that the policy would also help to minimise risks related to physiological health and depression.

Outlining how the policy would work, the PCOA boss said members of the force would be required to be certified as being fit for duty. He said the certification would involve a security vetting and clearance, a basic fitness test, psychometric tests to identify inherent risks related to anger, aggression, stress, financial pressure, and depression. McIntosh added that other factors could be included that are specific to the Jamaican situation.

In its quarterly publication, the PCOA head said his agency has been concerned for some time now over the seemingly high number of incidents involving members of the force. He said these incidents "relate to plain criminality", noting that murder-suicides involving JCF personnel and their family members had been of particular concern to the PCOA.

In the October to December 2015 quarterly newsletter, McIntosh bemoaned a number of incidents in 2015 and over the last three years, which involved the police; incidents such as robberies, kidnapping, attempts to export ganja, and shoot-outs with other JCF members in a bid to escape apprehension. Additionally, he said there were five reported cases of murder-suicides involving service personnel.




"As a result, we are currently engaged in a comprehensive thematic review on this subject, which we will complete within the first half of 2016. Thereafter, as is our methodology, we intend to engage the leadership and, most importantly, the rank and file of the JCF on this critically important subject. Having in place a comprehensive fit-for-duty policy is not in itself a panacea which will cure all the ills in the JCF," McIntosh said.

The police oversight body acknowledged the efforts of the Major Organised Crime Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) and other internal agencies of the force which have been working aggressively to curb errant criminality in the JCF.

"Whereas these initiatives may be good first steps, to us in civilian oversight they seem fragmented, lacking comprehensive all-encompassing promulgation from the top of the organisation. Additionally, they seem to be geared toward dealing with the problem 'after the fact' or otherwise, after irreversible damage has been done to lives and the image of the JCF," McIntosh argued.

Retired professor of criminology Bernard Headley said while he has high regard for the use of the proposed fit-for-duty procedure, it would not be a big priority at this stage, considering the immensity of Jamaica's policing problem. He said the assessment and use of fit-for-duty procedure would be more helpful and essential at the point of recruitment of police personnel.

"Right now, I think the Jamaican public is more concerned with institutional issues and problems relative to the larger society and its relationship with the JCF primarily: Police corruption, police impunity, and the bad to hostile relationships, and institutional distrust, between the police, citizens and entire communities".