Mon | Apr 23, 2018

Jamaica's FBI

Published:Wednesday | October 8, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Andrew King, Guest Columnist

National Security Minister Peter Bunting in August confirmed that a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)-style anti-crime agency was to be created in Jamaica. Minister Bunting and his technocrats merged the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) with the Anti-Corruption Branch of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). He noted that "the new agency will give greater reach and increase our capacity to carry out investigations on people of interest, including the police and those in public office".

For us to understand the minister's rationale for wanting to set up an FBI-style agency, we must first understand and appreciate the difference between the FBI and local police departments.

The FBI is the US government's domestic law-enforcement agency. It is tasked with conducting professional investigations to identify, disrupt and dismantle (sounds like our anti-gang legislation?) existing and emerging criminal enterprises; and gather, analyse and assess information and intelligence of planned or committed criminal acts.

The police, on the other hand, handle the day-to-day maintenance of law and order that include all measures to prevent the breaking of laws and the investigating and solving of crimes. The FBI, being the premier investigating agency, assists the police in handling important cases, including inter-state crime and kidnappings.

If the minister is to create a successful FBI-style agency, we must examine the critical issues that will shape our long-term national-security strategy. Consolidate manpower and scarce resources along with a special focus on separate, specialised security agencies that will help to sharpen the responses needed for specific problems.

Address security issues

The creation of a 'third-tiered' security agency is not unique within the Commonwealth. Singapore, with a population of approximately 5.4 million people (June 2013), has a police and defence force. Singapore also has a third-tiered security agency known as the Internal Security Department (ISD), established by the Internal Security Act (1985).

The task of the ISD is to confront and address security issues and latent threats. It collects and analyses intelligence and presents its assessment and policy recommendations to the Government. It also investigates and, where necessary, takes direct action in relation to the defined security threats of terrorism and politically motivated violence, foreign subversion, espionage, and communal extremism.

The ISD's powers of investigation and arrest are identical to police powers and are likewise regulated and governed by the laws of the land. It is responsible for setting standards and acts as the security consultant for public-sector agencies (excluding the defence ministry). The director of the ISD is 'classified' and reports to the minister of home affairs.

I wish to make the following recommendations to the minister of national security:

1. The minister should consider merging MOCA, Bureau of Special Investigation, Fraud Squad, Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse, Cybercrimes unit, Narcotics, DNA, and Visual Identifications units of the JCF to form this new FBI-style agency. Restructure the police force into a police service, allowing the police to focus on maintaining law and order, community policing, investigating, and solving crimes in their respective divisions. This new agency must be governed by the necessary legislation and report to the National Security Council and Parliament through the minister of national security.

2. One critical component in combating transnational and organised crime is good intelligence. Accurate and early intelligence allows authorities to disrupt plots and arrest key operatives. The Government should merge the National Intelligence Bureau with the Anti-Gang Intelligence Unit of the JCF and Military Intelligence of the JDF to create a new State Intelligence Agency governed by an Intelligence Act. This new intelligence agency will be an independent arm of the FBI-style agency.

3. The minister of finance should consider merging the Financial Investigative Division and the Jamaica Customs Agency to form the new Jamaica Revenue and Customs Agency responsible for the administration and collection of customs, passenger and airport duties, investigation of serious fiscal crime, including drug trafficking, tobacco and alcohol smuggling; and the protection of Jamaica's borders.

4. Recognising the need to create a clear, coordinated border-control system, the Government should replace the privately contracted security company tasked with checking outbound luggage and passengers. Deploy customs officers to monitor, regulate and manage the outbound checkpoints.

Beyond the specific recommendations, more can be done. We have to comprehensively review areas such as intelligence, policing, border controls, critical infrastructure, and revenue protection.

The Government must stay resolute on reforming the country's security apparatus, and the people and police remain united in the dismantling of organised crime.

Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and abking020@gmail.com.