PCOA, PSC merger to be completed by April

Published: Monday | December 21, 2009

( L - R ) Harrison-Henry, Hall, Nelson

Minister of National Security Senator Dwight Nelson says the merger of the Police Civilian Oversight Authority (PCOA) and the Police Service Commission (PSC) should be completed by April next year.

Nelson was speaking recently at an introductory meeting hosted by members of the PCOA to discuss issues of concern regarding the progress of the proposed merger and, by extension, the advancement in the implementation of recommendations outlined in the JCF Strategic Review in light of the current fiscal environment.

"In so far as the legal prescriptions are concerned, there are things that need to be done," Nelson said. "You know we will have to amend the Constabulary Force Act, look at constitutional provisions for the PCOA and PSC and other legal changes (however) this will not form the basis of any great debate or disagreement between both sides (Opposition and Government). So, in terms of expedition, I think that by April we should be able to conclude all discussions."

There have been a number of setbacks regarding the proposed merger of the PCOA and the PSC; however, the discussions have picked up pace.

It is anticipated also that all legal work will be completed by the stated period as, according to Nelson, all parties "seem to be in easy agreement" and desirous of moving the process quickly towards completion.

Members of the PCOA, however, have voiced concern regarding the legal treatment of civilian oversight of law enforcement within the context of the merger.

New concept

Dr Marshall Hall, PCOA board member, stated that the civilian oversight of law enforcement was a relatively new concept in Jamaica and that the PCOA was just beginning to fully grasp an understanding of the concept as PCOA representatives were the beneficiaries of benchmark training visits to similar entities in the United States, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.

"There is a range of models of civilian oversight of law enforcement. So do we see the new entity as an activist proactive body, or an auditing body? There are fundamental philosophies involved with respect to civilian oversight and I hope that before the lawyers start working on the legal framework, that they understand what the issues are as there are a clear set of guidelines," he noted.

For his part, Nelson assured that these matters were being considered as all parties involved in the process were examining policy issues to provide guidelines for the legal experts from the ministries of National Security and Justice.

While mindful of the minister's assurances, PCOA member Arlene Harrison Henry said the PCOA could share its practical experiences gathered over time and perhaps also assist in informing the policy process of the merger.

"We (PCOA) would not step in and interfere but, at the same time, something could be gleaned from our experience as a civilian oversight of law enforcement and possibly also we could have discussions as to what is the best model of oversight, best international practices so that once we do it, we get it right," she urged.

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