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Chance to overhaul JCF

Published:Sunday | July 13, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Ronald Mason, Contributor

Owen Ellington has had a four-year leadership role in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). He is generally seen as having had a successful tour of duty. The conditions that led to his premature departure are still shrouded in mystery. His retirement is clearly not of his own doing. He jumped. This provides us with an opportunity to take a look at the organisation and use the occasion to reposition same.

Crime is a big blot on Jamaica. The JCF has an ethos that must be taken into consideration in all attempts at making it more efficient in crime fighting. The 'force', as the principal calling card of the members, should be revisited. The history of the organisation at the time of the 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion is the source of this ethos. The members of the JCF are from our society, but not protective of us as individuals.

There has been some change. The members are noticeably less crude and bullying, but they largely do not approach citizens in the spirit of soliciting a response, but, rather, ordering one to obey commands. "Gi we a search, bwoy!" "Cum out a de kyaar mek we search it."

Serve, protect and reassure

There is usually no explanation that conveys the probable cause that should have led to the stop in the first place. This attitude needs to be adjusted. Yes, theirs is a dangerous task, but they are allegedly trained to respond on short notice with the appropriate use of force. They MUST first be in the mode to serve, protect and reassure.

This naturally leads to the thinking that the repositioning of the force would be more of a leadership problem than a resource problem. First, let me state that the size of the JCF, with some 12,000 members, is woefully inadequate. This is further heightened by the terrain they must police - informal squatter settlements through to steep, hilly, bushy areas. Inaccessibility, except on foot or by helicopter, is a major problem. We applaud the concept of community policing, but this must be for 24 hours a day and requires massive manpower to make it viable.

How do the police deal with the scourge of praedial larceny? What of the concept of the broken-glass theory? Will we be able to police the small crimes before they grow into the multiple murders? What is the response time to a call for help from the citizen? Do we continue to accept 'no vehicle available' as the standard response? Do we continue to lock up the police stations at nightfall, with no service after dark?

The occasion of appointing a new commissioner provides an opportunity to review many areas of policing. There are some 80 countries that produce arms and ammunition in the world, and of that number, only three do not engage in export. Let us diversify our sources. Let us decrease the opportunity for the big powers, USA, UK, Canada and others, to exercise too much leverage. If they did not have this power, there would be no Leahy effect from the USA.

At some point in time, Jamaica must become independent. As of now, we are at the mercy or even dictates of those whose funding of our institutions is too great. Have we no dignity? In-between divine intervention and the commands of the powerful, we are in a sorry place.

The time to appoint a new commissioner of police is as good an opportunity as any for us to make some real changes. Remember the Dudus saga and the role the Americans played by, and through, Peter Phillips? Enough. Do recall that Peter Phillips was not then a member of the Government.

When we appoint a new commissioner, please give the person the authority to make changes, as they may see fit. It is cumbersome and time-consuming to discipline members of the JCF. Due process must be allowed, but please emphasise timely finality. Not all bad eggs will commit offences that violate criminal statutes, but other actions could, and should, result in termination from the force.

This appointment should also provide the opportunity for the Ministry of National Security to welcome the new commissioner with the DNA Act in a comprehensive form, with the ability to establish a database. Though not so in Jamaica, Mr Minister, it is a tried and proven valuable crime-fighting tool. The new commissioner should also be welcomed with a well-staffed and equipped forensic lab. Could we, at last, see some real change?


The present administration is pursuing a path that could result in greater 'integration' with the member states of CARICOM. They need to be reminded that the people of Jamaica have not given them any such mandate. The value of CARICOM has not been established and subject to ratification by either the Parliament or the people by way of referendum. The only time we had a referendum, the people spoke with a resounding no.

They may not have given the response sufficient to satisfy the researcher from the University of the West Indies, but answer, they did. I welcome Mr Oneil Hall to the debate. It is now, even after centuries, that Scotland seeks to reclaim its independence and sovereignty. Why should Jamaica do less?

Ronald Mason is an immigration attorney, mediator and talk-show host. Email feedback to and