Thu | Nov 26, 2020

No criminals in uniforms - Former cops want harsher punishment for rogue officers, stricter recruitment process

Published:Friday | June 26, 2020 | 12:25 AMAdrian Frater/News Editor

Western Bureau:

Left angry, deflated, and embarrassed by the recent arrest of three St James-based police officers on drug-related charges in the United States, some former cops are calling on the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) to carry out more intense screening during recruitment.

“This thing is very disheartening and embarrassing ... . While I am no longer a serving member, I still respect the organisation and take no delight in seeing its image being tarnished in this way,” said a former lawman, who served in all four western parishes before calling time on his career.

“If we are to be successful in bringing back law and order to our society, we need the support of ordinary citizens. If citizens see the police as criminals in uniform, they will neither support nor respect them,” said the former cop. “The time has come for the hierarchy to stop paying lip service to corruption in the force and begin to do something tangible about it.”

Serious issues such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the Sahara dust plume have been playing second fiddle to the arrest of Woman Constable Shermain Latoya Gooden, Constable Dremar Graham, and Constable Trevonne Davidson by customs and law-enforcement agents in the US. They were this week slapped with drug charges.

RECRUITMENT PROCESS QUESTIONED

Another former police officer, who reached out to The Gleaner, raised questions about the JCF’s recruitment process.

“In my time, they (the JCF) would send people into your district to speak to pastors, teachers, and other reputable persons about your background. If your background was not spotless, you couldn’t go to training school,” said the former policeman. “I don’t know how the background checks are done these days, but some of the people I am seeing in uniform today couldn’t even walk near our barracks in my time.”

He added: “I know the force is short on numbers, but why sacrifice quality for quantity? We need to keep undesirable persons out of the force.”

While each police division has a system to discipline errant officers, the former cops believe it is not strict enough.

“In years gone by, when a policeman commits an infraction, he would be summoned to the ‘orderly room,’ and if found guilty, he could lose a few days of pay or even face suspension,” noted one of the ex-cops. “Regular offenders and those persons who end up in our court of inquiry for serious offences are usually not re-enlisted.”

He believes that the JCF should make examples out of cops found to have criminal connections or commit criminal offences as a deterrent to others.

“As for those that commit crimes and are found guilty in a court of law, they should get twice the sentence that a regular citizen would get ...,” he added. “We need to make it clear that criminality brings serious consequences.”

adrian.frater@gleanerjm.com