Mon | Jan 22, 2018

Balancing the force - JCF policy provides equilibrium but response should be proportional to threat, says JFJ

Published:Thursday | June 1, 2017 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (centre) in discussion with (from left) Luis Moreno, United States ambassador to Jamaica; Mark Connolly, UN resident coordinator in Jamaica; David Fitton, high commissioner of the United Kingdom to Jamaica; and Terrence Williams, Commissioner of INDECOM at INDECOM’s Caribbean Use of Force Conference, yesterday.
Susan Goffe

Jamaicans for Justice spokesperson Susan Goffe says that the current use-of-force policy within the Jamaica Constabulary Force strikes a balance that gives law enforcers the right to exercise lethal force when justified while also emphasising that proportionality of force is necessary.

Goffe's comment, during a Gleaner interview, follows remarks by Prime Minister Andrew Holness who argued yesterday that government policy in relation to law enforcement must be rooted in the requirement to find a balance between public safety and officer safety.


Policing difficult


Goffe says that Jamaicans for Justice has always acknowledged that policing in Jamaica is difficult and that the levels of violence faced by the police are high.

However, she insisted that the level of force used by the police should be proportional to the threat or risks that exist.

"This is why there is the absolute need for independent investigation, which the creation of INDECOM (Independent Commission of Investigations) was intended to provide so that each incident is investigated on its own merit and circumstances to see whether these principles within the use-of-force policy have been adhered to," Goffe added.

The prime minister, who was addressing the Use of Force in Law Enforcement Conference staged by INDECOM at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, said that the society should not rely on use of force for the preservation of law and order.

Use of force has not created public order

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has said that the use of force by the police over many decades in Jamaica has not translated to public order or the rule of law being maintained.

The prime minister contended that the use-of-force policy in the police force should highlight the importance of the preservation of innocent lives. Additionally, he said that it should place emphasis on the professional obligation to train Jamaica Constabulary Force members to the highest standards so that they are able to ensure personal and public safety.

"The right balance is necessary to ensure that law-enforcement officers would not hesitate to execute their duties in ensuring the safety of those they are sworn to protect is achieved."

He stressed that the personal safety of the officers should also be achieved.

"The State should guarantee a process that ensures that law-enforcement agencies use force in a way that creates trust, builds confidence and bridges the gap, and makes the public feel that there is no need to fear the police, but to cooperate with the agents of the State."