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Media hurts community policing efforts

Published:Saturday | March 20, 2010 | 12:00 AM

DOWNTOWN KINGSTON:One of the challenges faced by community-based policing initiatives, according to Assistant Commissioner Novelette Grant, is how the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is portrayed in the media.

A 2008 Latin American Public Opinion Project on Jamaica reported that 85 per cent of respondents felt that police were "there to help", as opposed to "abuse".

The study also describes media accounts of crisis as "sensa-tionalistic" and ones which do not accurately reflect the Jamaican public's view.

"That is the feeling of the Jamaican people," Grant said, referring to the findings of the report on how Jamaicans really felt towards the police.

success stories

Despite the challenge of representation, national and international stakeholders gathered at the Community Policing Conference at the Jamaica Conference Centre on Wednesday to share community success stories and challenges facing the JCF as it moves full steam ahead with engaging communities as an approach to policing.

"It's about recognising the myriad of problems out there," said Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) with responsibility for the Community, Safety and Security Division, John McLean.

ACP McLean said he saw the bottle as half empty because community-based policing had a "long way to go".

He also said Jamaica fits the definition of insanity, where one does the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

"By following a traditional method of policing in Jamaica, we're a bit mad."

The JCF's community-based policing mandate is to encourage community members to propose solutions and partner with the police to tackle disorder and crime, with the end result being safer living conditions.

"Many people in Jamaica are frightened they will become victims of crime," said McLean.

According to the ACP, persons have been growing more con-fident in community policing.

Superintendent James Forbes said this partnership comes at a time of economic and moral recession, where parents help children who have become "crime architects" in the Jamaican society, caught up in a "web of international controversy".

The Ministry of National Security, the Social Development Commission, the United Nations Development Programme, the United States Agency for International Development in Jamaica and the JCF were just some of those involved in the conference.

Sergeant Heather McLean encouraged Jamaicans through poetry to become part of this community-based initiative.

"Peeping Tom must partner to raise an alarm.

"Peep with a purpose before crime devour us," she recited.

- Laura Redpath