Wed | Oct 18, 2017

Security forces ready for polls

Published:Tuesday | February 2, 2016 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett
Clifford Blake

A day after Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller announced that Jamaicans will go to the polls later this month, Police Commissioner Dr Carl Williams has given instructions for scores of police personnel to be recalled from vacation leave.

At the same time, Deputy Commissioner of Police Clifford Blake said Williams has instructed that members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) should only be granted vacation in "exceptional circumstances".

"We will be recalling persons who are on [vacation] leave and we will be selective in the persons who are granted leave," Blake said.

"We are going to need all the numbers we have just to guarantee a safe election," said Blake, who has responsibility for the JCF's operations portfolio.

Blake declined to comment on whether the police were aware of any plan to disrupt the election, but made it clear that law enforcement is not taking anything for granted.

"We are prepared for all eventualities. All of our systems, to include our intelligence-gathering systems, are fired up and we are prepared for anything," he told The Gleaner yesterday.

WASN'T CAUGHT OFF-GUARD

Blake indicated that the JCF was not caught off guard by Simpson Miller's announcement last night, revealing that the Police High Command began preparing for a general election last August.

"We are far advanced with our preparations in

terms of our deployment, in terms of our election strategies, so the announcement was no surprise to us," he underscored.

The senior officer said the announcement of the date now gives the police a chance to fine-tune those preparations.

The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) also signalled yesterday that everything was in place to help the police provide a secure environment for Jamaicans to exercise their franchise.

Major Basil Jarrett, head of the JDF Civil-Military Cooperation Unit, said it was too early to determine how soldiers would be deployed for election duties, but indicated that the army and the police have already established a standard operating procedure.

"It's nothing new to us, we have done it before. We have the machinery in place to deal with a general election," Jarrett underscored.

"You know the history and the culture of Jamaican politics. We don't ever think that we will revisit those dark days, but even so, we take the highest levels of precautions," he added.

The security forces will cast their ballots before the remainder of the population, but Blake said that date will be determined by the Electoral Office of Jamaica.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com