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Army power! Let troops topple gangsters - poll

Published:Wednesday | June 16, 2010 | 12:00 AM

An overwhelming number of Jamaicans are demanding that soldiers take the fight to criminals who are proving a handful for the police force.

A Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll has found that almost nine in every 10 Jamaicans agree that soldiers should lead the charge against the thugs.

The islandwide poll, conducted on April 24 and 25 and May 1, with a sample size of 1,008 and a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent, found that 87 per cent of respondents agreed that the soldiers should play a greater role in crime fighting than they were at that time.

Ten per cent of the respondents disagreed, while three per cent did not offer an opinion.

Weeks after the poll was done, the Government used the Jamaica Defence Force at the forefront of its effort to regain control of the west Kingston fortress of Tivoli Gardens. Since the military operation, soldiers have received a mixed bag of kudos and criticisms.

The army has also joined the police in patrolling the streets of west Kingston and neighbouring com-munities in an ongoing search for illegal weapons and criminals, including the nation's most wanted, Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.

The security forces have also engaged in a campaign to win the support of the residents, but this could prove difficult for the police as most Jamaicans believe a vast majority of them are corrupt.

The Bill Johnson poll found that, on average, Jamaicans believe that six out of every 10 cops who pass them on the street are corrupt. "This is particularly disturbing, as the perception is the same for persons in Kingston and St Andrew, as well as persons in rural communities," Johnson told The Gleaner.

Even in small, rural communities, persons believe that three of every 10 police personnel are corrupt. The number increases slightly in Kingston and St Andrew, where residents believe almost four of every 10 policemen or women are corrupt.

But despite those concerns, the call by some critics for the police force to be disbanded and remade from scratch is not finding traction with the majority of Jamaicans.

The poll found that 52 per cent of Jamaicans reject the recommendation for the force to be disbanded and replaced with one in which applicants would have to pass lie-detector tests.

Only 39 per cent backed the call, while nine per cent said they were not sure.