Kinder cops - High Command moves to improve how police interact with children
Aware that not all its members have treated children with the dignity and respect they deserve, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is moving to standardise its approach to minors who come in contact with the law.
Among the first steps, the JCF will be replacing its Juvenile Caution Register with what it has dubbed a Child Interaction Register.
According to Senior Superintendent of Police Desmond Brooks, having recognised that children's rights were sometimes violated by the cops they interact with, the JCF has moved to put in place procedures and guidelines to govern how its members relate with minors.
"As it relates to children, we concede that not too long ago we had some issues. So there were some deep-rooted beliefs and practices that offensively violated children's rights," Brooks told The Sunday Gleaner.
"Generally, there was a lack of understanding of child development and child rights and the absence of a comprehensive policy and standard operating procedure as it relates to children," said Brooks, as he noted that as a result of the absence of a uniformed approached in dealing with children a child's experience would vary from police station to police station.
"So if a child went to Maggotty Police Station and made a report, the treatment there is kind of different from if they had attended Half-Way Tree or CISOCA headquarters.
"So we have formulated for the first time a JCF child interaction policy and procedure with set guidelines and protocols for all occasions which members interact with children. The aim of it is to make every police encounter with a child a positive one in which protective and corrective action is taken and both sides emerge with dignity and respect," said Brooks.
Get them in line
He told our news team that the Juvenile Caution Register merely documents when a child is taken to the police to be warned.
"So you have parents who take their children to the police station for the police to threaten them to get them in line.
"And depending on the personality of the police there, the treatment can be anything. But the end result is that the child is supposed to be scared of doing anything wrong," said Brooks.
He added that the JCF holds the view that given the protective and corrective approach that the organisation has to take towards children, the Juvenile Caution Register is narrowly focused.
"What we are saying is police interaction with children transcends just caution. We are interacting with children who are victims of crime, witnesses to crimes, children who are perpetrators of crime, and children who are in need of care and protection.
"So there is a multiplicity of interaction. All the various categories have increased over the years in terms of the type of interactions and the level of interactions."
The Child Interaction Register, which the JCF aims to implement soon, will be used to record all form of interactions between the police and a minor among, other things.
"So we want every time we interact with a child the quality of the interaction is recorded and, importantly, the agency to which the child is referred is recorded and the time of the response and the quality of the response.
"If we have in place a child interaction database; an electronic platform whereas every time you interact with a child it is recorded and the information can be retrieved, analysis done and count the frequency of interaction with a particular child, and it might say something about the kind of parenting or the lack thereof, and of course it assists with management," said Brooks.