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(JAMAICA OBSERVER) — Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang says that a professional review of the 19 police territorial divisions suggests the need for an additional 4,000 cops to ensure adequate staffing.
However, it is unlikely that the magic figure will be met within another few years, with only 1,000 to be trained this year, and another 500 expected to be trained next year.
Opening the 2019/20 sectoral debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Dr Chang said that Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson and his team will be training the additional officers.
“We expect to reach up to 1,000 new officers this year, and by next year, 1,500. While these numbers are being expanded, we will reorganise and re-mission the Inspectorate of Constabulary, Mobile Reserve and the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigation Branch,” he told the House of Representatives.
He also announced an additional infrastructural investment in western Jamaica with the construction of the Mobile West station in Montego Bay, St James. He said that it will provide quality residence for 400 police personnel, with state-of-the-art equipment and appropriate furnishings, to enhance the capacity of the police.
“It is unfortunate that our major cities, Montego Bay and Kingston, have become the hubs for criminal organisations. This Government undertakes these significant projects as an investment to secure the peace and safety of future generations. We will get rid of the gangs, dons and their facilitators, that continue to wreak havoc in the communities and our public spaces,” Dr Chang committed.
He said the commissioner of police will engage in a process of expanding training opportunities, and a transparent process of promotion and the extension of the officer corps.
“No longer will upward mobility be seen as a scarce benefit, offered only to a select few. Promotions will be done in an objective and orderly basis, and discretion will be extremely limited. It will be a matrix of an exam, performance evaluation, length of service, and, of course, the integrity of the officer. This is being done to ensure that we have the appropriate depth of leadership going forward,” Dr Chang stated.
“We have decided to face the broad reality that, unless the police force has strong, adequate internal controls and oversight that ensures professional standards and accountability, we will never have a strong professional police force,” he added.
He argued that the Government is serious about putting resources into that area, to hold the police to a high standard and restore public trust in the force.
“The professional standards and accountability of a police force cannot be driven by an external body. Such bodies should be brought to bear only when internal operations fail. I am confident that the appointment of Deputy Commissioner of Police Selvin Hay to the restructured Inspectorate of Constabulary will send a strong signal concerning the new strategic direction of this unit,” the national security minister said.
He added that the police must develop their own professional standards, monitor them and apply strong sanctions when they are breached.
The Jamaica Constabulary Force’s complement is currently approximately 11,500 officers, and the increasing deficit appears to be linked to a high level of attrition, annually. In 2015, for example, the force recruited 244 new members, but during the same period lost 514 members through resignation, retirement, death, or dismissal. In 2016, 495 members were recruited, but 544 left that same year.
The plans are to strengthen the complement of the force to create a police/citizen ratio of 46.6 officers to every 10,000 Jamaicans. It is felt that this would put Jamaica on par with major cities, such as New York, which has a population of nine million citizens with a ratio of 44.5 police officers to every 10,000 citizens.