Dark Days Ahead For The JCF

A cri­tique of the recent­ly amend­ed JCF leg­is­la­tion


The recent require­ment for sub-offi­cers and con­sta­bles to give six months’ notice of their inten­tion to with­draw from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) may prove as dif­fi­cult to enforce as the pub­lic health tobac­co con­trol reg­u­la­tion which for­bids smok­ing in pub­lic places.

The first chal­lenge cre­at­ed by this piece of leg­is­la­tion is that it may dis­suade inter­est­ed par­ties from join­ing the JCF due to the threat of being fined or impris­oned should either the con­di­tion of ser­vice or some per­son­al or oth­er rea­sons cause them to leave with­in a rel­a­tive­ly short peri­od or if they choose to use the force as a step­ping stone to more lucra­tive oppor­tu­ni­ties.

As a 40-year vet­er­an of the JCF leav­ing at the com­mis­sion­ing rank and hav­ing at one time respon­si­bil­i­ty for over 2,000 mem­bers of the con­stab­u­lary while an area offi­cer, I have observed that com­par­a­tive­ly few police­men serve the force beyond 10 years. Many leave the force with lit­tle or no notice for var­i­ous rea­sons which will be dis­cussed.

Attrition rate

The sec­ond chal­lenge includes con­di­tion of ser­vice. There have been times when police sta­tions have been so dilap­i­dat­ed that con­sta­bles liv­ing in bar­racks have an unob­struct­ed view of the stars on a clear night due to the dete­ri­o­ra­tion of the sta­tions over time. This poor liv­ing con­di­tion has, in the opin­ion of many retired offi­cers, been a con­tribut­ing fac­tor to the dete­ri­o­ra­tion in dis­ci­pline of many police­men due to the change in pol­i­cy which allows police offi­cers to live out­side of bar­racks in pri­vate quar­ters where they are unsu­per­vised and which facil­i­tate involve­ment in nefar­i­ous activ­i­ties.

The third chal­lenge is the bur­geon­ing crime rate and crim­i­nal actions which police offi­cers face dai­ly and which, despite sev­er­al poli­cies and strate­gies, con­tin­ue to con­sume the lives and well-being of many of the JCF mem­bers. In addi­tion, they are under­equipped and over­worked.

The fourth rea­son for police­men exit­ing the force at this pace are the oppor­tu­ni­ties that are open to them both at home and abroad, and per­haps this is the only area in which the Act may be effec­tive due to the neces­si­ty of a favourable rec­om­men­da­tion from the force. Notwithstanding, offi­cers will still con­tin­ue in their quest for more favourable occu­pa­tion­al engage­ment.

The fifth rea­son is the lack of men­tors with­in the force seems to impact the exo­dus. There was a time when young police­men were sub­ject­ed to the guid­ance of well-round­ed divi­sion­al sub-offi­cers who exer­cised con­trol and men­tor­ship over the young con­sta­bles.

The qual­i­ty and com­mit­ment of divi­sion­al train­ing sub-offi­cers have dete­ri­o­rat­ed over the years. This, but­tressed by the fact that many of the police­men join­ing the force use it as a step­ping stone, many to get a visa to the United States or some oth­er coun­try.

Although there may be good rea­sons for enact­ing this piece of leg­is­la­tion, it must be judi­cious­ly bal­anced against the ills. A police­man or police­woman who is forced to remain in the con­stab­u­lary against his or her will may become frus­trat­ed and direct that frus­tra­tion either against mem­bers of the organ­i­sa­tion or mem­bers of the pub­lic. The offi­cer may become lethar­gic, under­pro­duc­tive, indis­ci­plined, or worse yet engage in con­duct that brings the force into dis­re­pute.

The idea of send­ing a police offi­cer to prison to share quar­ters with crim­i­nal ele­ments whom he or she may have arrest­ed mere­ly because that offi­cer has dis­en­gaged from the force for what­ev­er rea­son does not seem to be good pol­i­cy. It crim­i­nalis­es the offi­cer at a time when gan­ja is pos­ses­sion and use of gan­ja is being decrim­i­nalised.

The sixth rea­son is that dis­en­chant­ed police­men may have the ten­den­cy of ignor­ing crim­i­nal activ­i­ties which will sub­scribe to spi­ralling crime rates. Currently, in some divi­sions, a sub­stan­tial num­ber of the mem­bers while on the books can­not be account­ed for. This has been my expe­ri­ence while at the Area 1 Division which encom­pass­es Westmoreland, St James, Trelawny, and Hanover.

The point is, if and when these offi­cers are brought to book, there is a high prob­a­bil­i­ty of these offi­cers exit­ing the force. The same is true across oth­er divi­sions.

Rubbishing the court atten­dance argu­ment

Police offi­cers, whether serv­ing or retired, are required to go to court when sub­poe­naed to do so or suf­fer the con­se­quence of hav­ing bench war­rants issued for their arrest. I know of cas­es where police offi­cers, after leav­ing the force for as many as 14 years, are sum­moned to attend as wit­ness­es in mur­der cas­es.

A cri­tique of the grad­u­ate entrants

My atten­tion was drawn to an arti­cle on social media enti­tled ‘JCF/​government Act to stop attri­tion from force sopho­moric deci­sion’, which is a well-writ­ten arti­cle by a for­mer mem­ber of the force which crit­i­cis­es the atti­tude of some grad­u­ate entrants to work­ing in the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

I tend to agree with the writer that very few of the grad­u­ate entrants have con­cerned them­selves with the devel­op­ment of the JCF or the inter­est of the pub­lic. Many do not both­er to acquaint them­selves with either the law or police pro­ce­dures and, if not prop­er­ly super­vised, spend very lit­tle time actu­al­ly per­form­ing polic­ing duties and accord­ing­ly do not do well oper­a­tional­ly or admin­is­tra­tive­ly.

Not all grad­u­ate entrants dis­play ambiva­lence to their duties. There are some who entered the force and per­formed excep­tion­al­ly well and were not reward­ed. Some after 10 years of ser­vice and not been pro­mot­ed, obvi­ous­ly because they were not in the “right cir­cles” had to leave, much to my dis­en­chant­ment.

Some of those offi­cers have been absorbed into senior posi­tions in oth­er gov­ern­ment or pri­vate sec­tor enti­ties. One is now a judge, anoth­er a senior mem­ber in a com­mer­cial bank. There are yet oth­er police­men who have ben­e­fit­ed sig­nif­i­cant­ly from tax­pay­ers con­tri­bu­tion to the soci­ety and who have stud­ied for as many as 10 years and achieved sev­er­al degrees with­out break­ing that leave for a sin­gle day to con­tribute to the devel­op­ment of the force.

I con­tin­ue to be upset because some of these mem­bers received pro­mo­tion to sub­stan­tive ranks with­in the force which, to my mind, is unfair as the oth­er peo­ple who have been toil­ing dur­ing their absence have been left behind.

As a five-time grad­u­ate of The University of the West Indies, many peo­ple have ques­tioned how I found time to study. The secret has been that for every time the uni­ver­si­ty, either at Cave Hill or Mona, is on break, even for the Christmas and Easter peri­od, I returned to work and did so labo­ri­ous­ly. During my peri­ods of study I have nev­er been away from the force for more than a year.

Some of the grad­u­ates with­in the JCF are averse to obey­ing the rules and reg­u­la­tions set out by the estab­lish­ment. They do not report for duty as detailed, they do not fol­low the dress code as set out in the book of rules and the JCF reg­u­la­tions, they do not com­mand the respect of the junior mem­bers of their com­mand, a sit­u­a­tion to which many of them sub­scribe.

While con­demn­ing those mem­bers, kudos must be show­ered on those who have com­mit­ted them­selves to serv­ing the force and have been reward­ed with port­fo­lio and oth­er senior posi­tions with­in the con­stab­u­lary. The grad­u­ate entrants with­in the JCF must now realise that they have been and will con­tin­ue to be under greater scruti­ny both from with­in and out­side the JCF.

My final query about this new devel­op­ment is whether this offence is extra­ditable, as most of the police offi­cers leav­ing the force will be out of the juris­dic­tion of the courts.

Please see arti­cle referred to on chatt​-​a​-box​.com dat­ed the 12/​8/​2017 and undoubt­ed­ly writ­ten by an intel­li­gent and expe­ri­enced police offi­cer.

Keith M D Gardner is an attor­ney-at-law and a retired assis­tant com­mis­sion­er of police. He is cur­rent­ly direc­tor of secu­ri­ty for The University of the West Indies, Mona Campus. Send com­ments to the Observer or keith.​gardner02@​uwimona.​edu.​jm.