Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Police, Church agree on handover protocols

Published:Thursday | November 24, 2016 | 11:00 AM
Minister of National Security Robert Montague (centre) in discussion with President of the Jamaica Council of Churches, Reverend Dr Gordon Evans (left) and Director of Communication, Independent Churches of Jamaica, Orville Ramocan, during the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU), which sets out guidelines and protocols for the handling and handing over of wanted persons, illegal firearms, ammunition, prohibited weapons, and contraband to the police by members of the clergy and other religious organisations. The signing took place at the ministry in Kingston on Tuesday.

Guidelines and protocols are now in place for the handling and handing over of wanted persons, illegal firearms, ammunition, and contraband to the police by members of the clergy and other religious organisations.

The guidelines were formalised with the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) by representatives from the Ministry of National Security, the Jamaica Umbrella Group of Churches and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) during a ceremony at the Ministry in Kingston on Tuesday.

The MOU, which has been in the works since 2014, is slated to last for five years and will be reviewed annually.

Portfolio minister, Robert Montague, said the agreement is a demonstration of the commitment of the Church to actively partner with the Government in fighting crime and building a safer Jamaica.

"We have codified what has been long practised ... so in having it in black and white, it solves a lot of problems, and I don't have to think and believe, I just have to follow the steps that are there," he said.

He reminded members of the clergy not to 'lay hands' on illegal weapons or contraband, as they will have to undergo forensic testing.

"The MOU is very clear that when a wanted person comes in, you don't have to interrogate, you don't have to find out why is he wanted and what is he wanted for; that's none of your affair. Your affair is to provide that safe space to engage him and hand him over," he pointed out.

Montague informed that a similar MOU will be established for lay magistrates and justices of the peace.

"It is our intention to partner with everybody in the fight against crime, because fighting crime in Jamaica is a national priority," he said.

Commissioner of Police Dr Carl Williams said the partnership was critical.

He said the MOU would ensure that men of the cloth would not find themselves before the court for any reason in trying to help the police and society.

He noted that the Church is the largest single body in Jamaica.

"Your reach is very wide. It's extraordinary; you have influence and you have respect. You have the trust of a wide cross section of Jamaica, and as such, there can be no more important partner in dealing with the issues of crime and violence in communities," he said.