Legal Eagle : Underpaid cops need better incentives to fight crime
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in his 2017-2018 Budget Debate presentation, outlined his plan to implement a set of anti-crime measures which he hopes will help tame the crime monster.
Under the proposed new plan, the prime minister will chair the National Security Council (NSC), which is a committee of Cabinet with responsibility for defence and national security. The prime minister, in council, may declare a zone of special operations for a period not exceeding 60 days or revoke an order declaring a zone.
Administratively, a Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) officer and a police officer not below the rank of major and superintendent, respectively, will be the joint commanders. The joint command will, among other things, be empowered to establish a cordon around or within a zone, which shall not be for more than 24 hours and/or a curfew in the zone, which shall not be for more than 72 hours.
A member of the joint force may search any place, person or vehicle without a warrant but upon reasonable suspicion that an offence is about to be committed or has been committed. The members of the joint force may seize vehicles, articles or documents of evidential value. However, they are not allowed to seize and keep tools of trade or documents subject to legal privilege.
The bills also provide procedures for the custody and disposal of items seized, arrest and detention of persons and the treatment of persons arrested. What appears new are the use of body-worn cameras and the registration of weapons to be used by the joint force with the Institute of Forensic Science and Legal Medicine before any operations in the zone, but this is subject to approval from the chief of defence staff or the commissioner of police.
But will these crime bills be the panacea for the crime problems plaguing Jamaica? The best answer is partially, as without improvement in the quality of the facilities at our police stations and better training and increased pay for our police officers, these bills, even when they becomes law, will fail. Just look at the conditions of the major police stations in the Corporate Area. Most are rat-invested. None of these stations has a CIB department that anyone is proud of, and none of these stations has enough space for police officers to park, much less members of the public.
In addition, police are underpaid, and for what they are required to do, it is too easy for them to be criminally charged. It is obvious that there is not enough incentive for the average police office to go the extra mile on and off duty. In addition, unless you can successfully arrest and prosecute the crime boss, which is the Kingfish concept, we are only touching the tip of the iceberg.