Sun | Jun 24, 2018

Disrespected & disillusioned - District constables uncertain of their status and demand better treatment

Published:Sunday | May 27, 2018 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris
A police corporal (right) and a district constable shelter from the rain as they ensure the safety of visitors to Ocho Rios, St Ann.

They have the power to arrest and daily carry out several other policing functions, but the country's district constables (DCs) are uncertain of their status and are charging that they face discrimination daily.

President of the United District Constables Association, Delroy Davis, contends that while the district constables are part of the auxiliary of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), they do not get many of the benefits offered to the members of the JCF.

According to Davis, the status of the district constables "is a grey area" in the JCF, but he hopes there will be clarity when the promised Police Service Act replaces the Constabulary Force Act

"I have not seen a draft of the act yet to see where the district constables fall, because if we are doing police business, then we must be somewhere in it," Davis told The Sunday Gleaner.

There is an estimated 2,300 district constables appointed by the commissioner of police and attached to police stations islandwide, with an almost uniform feeling of disrespect.

Last December, the House of Representatives passed the Civil Service Establishment (General Order) 2017, which should have resulted in 2,200 district constable posts going on to the government establishment and becoming pensionable.

In moving the resolution, then minister with responsibility for the public service, Audley Shaw, said this would regularise the status of district constables in the JCF.

But last week, several DCs who spoke with our news team were unaware of what had been done since then.

Outside of Davis, the DCs who spoke with our news team asked not to be named as they fear that speaking out could jeopardise any future mobility in the force.

They charged that they have been the subjects of social and institutional segregation, and are often humiliated and demeaned while carrying out their duties.

 

RIDICULED AND DENIED BASIC ALLOWANCE

 

"It would appear that the sole objective of some members of the JCF, and the divisional commanders, in particular, is to prove that district constables are nobody and should be treated with no form of respect," lamented one district constable.

He said that they are often told that their only duty is to guard the prisons, and oftentimes are called "fool" and "dunce".

"Many young, educated district constables are disillusioned, but we continue to work hard and serve our country with dedication," added the DC.

Another district constable noted that although they put their lives on the line daily, they are deprived of some of the basic allowances afforded to members of the JCF.

"The nastiest part of the work, you get it, and then there is nothing for you; no other benefits," he said before adding, "Is just equity we want; we don't want anything special."

He added, "A district constable goes out on patrol and if shots are being fired, they do not differentiate between a police and a district constable," he said.

One district constable noted that while members of the JCF are allowed the courtesy of travelling on Jamaica Urban Transit Company buses free, district constables are often scolded by drivers and inspectors when they try to make use of this opportunity.

"They often say it loud and demand payment. This is very humiliating, demoralising and disrespectful to us, and it also creates a negative public perception of us," he told The Sunday Gleaner.

Davis said the association is aware of some of the challenges facing district constables and is currently in wage negotiations with the Ministry of Finance to ensure better salaries going forward.

"One of the main things across the board is the hours district constables have been working, and we are trying to address that," he said.

According to Davis, while his organisation has been lobbying for several changes over the years, their efforts are often stymied by changes in administration.

"Every time they change a minister of national security, we find that there is a setback, because we have to meet with the other minister to convey what was discussed," he said.

Davis said he is yet to have a meeting with the new police commissioner, Major General Antony Anderson, but hopes one will be facilitated soon.

nadine.wilson@gleanerjm.com