Fri | Sep 4, 2015

UNMASKED - JCF blocks divisional heads from authorising disguising apparel

Published:Saturday | July 27, 2013
Deputy commissioner in charge of the operations portfolio, Glenmore Hinds.
Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington
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The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has stripped divisional commanders of the power to authorise the use of masks and other disguising apparel by its members.

The revelation came yesterday when Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington announced changes to the procedures by which approval should be sought for the use of disguising apparel, in the weekly Force Orders.

As part of the revised procedure, commanding officers must now seek approval for the use of disguising apparel from deputy commissioner in charge of the operations portfolio, Glenmore Hinds. This approval should be done in writing.

Source of discontent

The use of masks by members of the JCF has been a source of discontent for the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) - the police oversight body - local human-rights groups, and citizens, mainly those who reside in inner-city communities.

INDECOM has said this practice makes it difficult for residents to identify JCF members involved in questionable killings.

Hinds told The Gleaner yesterday that these concerns influenced the JCF's decision to tighten elements of the procedures that were in place.

"It [the revised procedure] will now provide centralised authorisation for members to wear disguising apparel," Hinds explained.

"There will be documentation of the authorisation, so if there is a breach you can easily identify where it took place," he added.

Under the revised procedures, all members must comply with instructions from the deputy commissioner in charge of operations, and warned that commanding officers must keep written records of the names and regulation numbers of all personnel authorised to wear disguising apparels.

At the end of each operation, commanding officers are required to submit a report to the deputy commissioner for operations.

Writing to the men and women under his command, Ellington noted that the use of masks and other disguising apparels is a deviation from the norm "which must be controlled and properly managed by all supervisors".