Fri | Jun 22, 2018

Letter of the Day | Tread cautiously with Special Zones Bill

Published:Thursday | June 29, 2017 | 12:02 AM


I welcome the measured response of the Holness administration to the burgeoning criminality and the murderous rampage that is afflicting our society, but I am concerned about one of the major propositions laid out in the Zones of Special Operations, Special Security and Community Development Measures Act (2017).

The fact that this bill seeks to give the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) extraordinary powers to operate in the designated zones that are rife with criminality and civil disorder disturbs me greatly.

There are many of us who have very little or no trust in the JCF because of their record of abusing our rights, and due to the deeply entrenched corrupt practices in the organisation.

Therefore, that this bill would authorise the JCF, along with the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), to search persons, places and vehicles without a warrant is, understandably, scary.

The bill states that a member of the security forces can only search a person upon reasonable suspicion that an offence has been, is being, or is about to be committed.

However, I am not at all content that the JCF would apply objectivity and exercise good sense and judgement in determining what are reasonable grounds to effect a search and/or an arrest, albeit the JDF members who we have more confidence in would also be present.

I note that a member of the joint forces would be required to, as far as is possible, subject to resource availability, use a body camera when operations are being conducted within a zone. Also noteworthy is that the security forces would receive human-rights and use-of-force training before they are deployed.




There are severe resource constraints for the authorities to deal effectively with crime on a sustainable basis. In that context, the Government should state clearly how it will implement the needed social-intervention measures and the infrastructure in these zones.

It should not be a case where after the authorities 'clear' and hold', the 'build' aspect of the initiative is prevented because we did not make available the resources that are imperative in starting the renewal process in these communities.

Suffice it to say that we should invest heavily in this initiative in order to realise the effects of significantly reducing and controlling the mayhem and the bloodletting that has been a nightmare for us law-abiding citizens.

One of the positive spin-offs is that the local newspapers would lessen plastering crime on the front pages to scare away the tourists, since we would now be effectively controlling crime.

I support this initiative, but if experience teaches us wisdom, then we should tread cautiously in seeking to give some of the untrustworthy, corrupt and abusive JCF members such extraordinary powers without the appropriate and expressed safeguards and recourses in law.