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'Chop MOCA from toxic JCF' - Criminology professor says agency will lose credibility if it remains tied to police force

Published:Friday | January 26, 2018 | 12:00 AM
In this 2014 photograph, members of MOCA carry out an operation at the Accountant General's Department.
Professor Anthony Harriott

Head of the Police Civilian Oversight Authority Professor Anthony Harriott is urging legislators to move swiftly on a bill to split the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).

Debate of a bill to transform MOCA into a stand-alone elite law-enforcement investigative agency, operating separately from the JCF, started in Parliament last October, and for Harriott, this cannot take place soon enough.

"It is critical that it is removed. The JCF is toxic. And there is no point in spending a lot of money, giving people high-level training for them to become part of the JCF's occupational culture," he said.

"The occupational culture of the JCF is one where you take the car and you go off and drink rum and do no investigation. You are not called to account, and when the murder rate goes through the roof, you squeal that you don't have enough of this or that," added Harriott.

The internationally renowned professor of criminology argues that MOCA must be transformed into an entity similar to the United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation as it will lose credibility if it remains tied to the JCF.

"That is the root of the problem, and that is why this investigative police (unit), the core of which is in MOCA, must be taken off the JCF - split from the JCF immediately. There has really been an effort to have MOCA operate separately, and it must be encouraged," said Harriott.

"I would go further to say if you break it off, you are able to attract some of the best investigators locally and internationally because nobody wants to go into a JCF that is disreputable," he added.

He argued that the current investigative capacity of the JCF is no deterrent to criminals as it struggles in crime fighting.

Harriot added that the other major investigative arm of the JCF, the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigation Branch, is too rooted in the present culture of the force to be really effective.

With 1,616 persons killed across the island last year and more than 100 already killed in 2018, Harriot wants the Government to move quickly.

This was a sentiment echoed by Minister of National Security Robert Montague as he piloted the bill titled the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) Act, through Parliament on October 3 last year.

Montague said that the legislation was to establish such a body to fight organised crime in Jamaica, including detecting and investigating crime kingpins and persons who facilitate their activities.

He argued that an independent MOCA would have the ability to dedicate time, and would be given the resources required, to conduct intelligence-led investigations to identify the bosses of organised crime and their facilitators, seize their assets, and secure convictions.