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New face coming for JCF next year - Force to be turned into 'police service'

Published:Wednesday | November 16, 2016 | 11:00 AMJovan Johnson
Police stand guard at a demonstration in St Andrew, in this 2012 file photo.

The entire structure of Jamaica's police force is to be overhauled next year if the Government follows through with a commitment to replace the law that governs the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).

Documents released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) yesterday revealed the Andrew Holness administration's intention to implement "a full legislative review" of the Constabulary Force Act of 1935 that should lead to the tabling in Parliament of a Police Service Act by October 2017.

The commitment is an adoption of a recommendation of the Economic Growth Council and falls under the new agreement with the IMF. It is not a structural benchmark.

According to the Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies, which Jamaica submitted to the IMF, the new law would "support the modernisation and transformation of the Jamaica Constabulary Force into a modern, intelligence-led police service that ensures citizen security, with stronger systems of administration, management and internal discipline".

There were no details on the nature of the review.

The reformation of the JCF has been a major talking point for decades, and the move to replace the current JCF Act is being seen as the Government trying to ensure the success of its drive for economic growth and job creation.

 

PUBLIC CONFIDENCE

 

 

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT

 

The command structure, culture, history of allegations of extrajudicial killings, questionable clear-up rate, resource deprivation, among other things, have largely undermined the work of the JCF, which does not enjoy good public confidence.

In September, a Crime and Violence in Jamaica Report, published by the Inter-American Development Bank, noted improvements in the capacity of the police force for research and analysis but pointed to impediments such as lack of transparency in data gathering and sharing.

A month later, crime and security expert, Professor Anthony Clayton, disclosed that the force accumulated losses of $1 billion because of failure of management to implement recommendations to change.

"So, in the end, it looks very much that the obstacles were really to do with the entrenched practices and culture of the force. To get over those hurdles, you really need to have not just strong leadership inside the JCF, but you also need constant pressure from outside," Clayton said.

Reacting to Jamaica's intent to overhaul the current JCF structure, Horace Levy, executive director of Jamaicans For Justice, said even without the specifics, such a move was welcome.

"I would see it as very positive. It's a move from force to a service, which I presume is why the title is the Police Service Act. Take away the notion of force or compulsion, of the paramilitary side of the police force, which is part of the ambiguity in the force. In the one hand, it has community policing from the mid-1990s, and on the other hand, it's had an older tradition of paramilitary policing."

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com