Barbara Ellington, Public Affairs Editor
ACP Gary Welsh, a chaplain of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), has made an impassioned plea to members of the St Andrew Justices of the Peace (SJAP), to H.E.L.P members of the police force better carry out their jobs. He was addressing JPs at their third quarterly meeting at Fellowship Tabernacle, off the Washington Boulevard on Saturday.
Speaking against the background of recent police excesses that have earned them the wrath of civil society, Bishop Welsh spelled out his request for H.E.L.P from the JPs as follows:
Hold up the oath of office to officers whenever you see them and ensure that they know it and are obeying it. He said a recent interview of 100 members of the force showed that whereas they were supposed to take the oath of office after "passing out" and every five years thereafter, 90 of them had only taken it once.
Encourage policemen to do right and refrain from doing wrong, give them good advice. Bishop Welsh said if JPs observed that a rookie cop who is taking home $80,000 a month is driving a new luxury car that was valued way above his pay grade, it was the JP's duty to speak to the cop's superiors.
Legislate by making demands about what happens in your communities; these include bringing back foot patrols throughout the community.
Pray for the officers daily; visit the stations as often as possible, they will welcome your prayers.
In a very engaging yet thought-provoking presentation, Welsh shared some sobering facts with his audience. He asked them to view the life of a policeman as they had never done before. He said cops were not going out to deliberately shoot people but many of them have a split second to make a decision whether to take a life, whereas most people had days, weeks, and even months to mull over similar circumstances.
"I joined the force at age 171/2 and by age 19, I was a full-fledged policeman. I was given an awesome responsibility; after a mere six months, I had the authority to lock you up," said Welsh to his eager listeners. He said that in the six months of training, officers had to be competent at more than 60 areas of the work, sit five exams and go on to further training on the job.
He noted that with 10,000 men and women in the force, there were up to 12,500 (some repeat) requests for counselling so far, 70 per cent of which were for personal and relationship matters. Many cops were requesting sick leave not because they were ill but because they were suffering from stress. And, of the more than 300 police stations or posts, some 150 have no spiritual support. The eight chaplains are insufficient to reach them all.
Meanwhile, Custos of St Andrew Marigold Harding encouraged JPs to report for jury duty as a way of helping to decrease the 580 cases that are to be disposed of during the Michaelmas term of the Home Circuit Court. Of that number, 340 are murder cases but often they have to be traversed because of a lack of jurors. If you are called to do duty, please do not send in sick leave. It starts with you, so act responsibly."