Issue #ZAS1234

Issue #ZAS1234

December 1, 2021


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Cops Steadily Gaining Allies

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Public perception of the police in parts of St Andrew, St Catherine and St Thomas is steadily improving, according to a recent survey conducted by the Police Civilian Oversight Authority (PCOA) with some community representatives during recent inspection of Area 5 Police Division.


PCOA externally monitors performance and accountability within the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and its Auxiliary (District Constables). The customer service survey – conducted as part of PCOA’s Transforming Our Police Service (TOPS) competition- revealed that trust in the police (and resulting belief in safety) ranked high on the list of positives enumerated by citizens accessing the services of the police in the Area Five (5) of the JCF. Area 5 comprises four divisions – St. Andrew North, St. Thomas, St. Catherine North and St. Catherine South – which collectively number 39 stations. Responding to Freedom Come Rain enquiries, Senior Director of the PCOA’s Inspections and Monitoring Unit, Mr. Andrew Beaumont, stated that “Among the positives listed was the trust factor, whereby persons said they always had access to a police officer within whom they could confide and talk to. This was especially the case with stations in rural communities more so than the urban areas.”

As for the negatives, persons were almost unanimous in their observations that police patrols (be it foot or car) were not as frequent as before within their respective communities. The TOPS initiative – now in its second year – judges police stations and their compliance in operational areas of records management, station administration, station facility and community/customer service.

PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
PCOA’s Executive Director, Mrs. Otarah Byfield-Nugent revealed that public participation in the competition was very good.

“Random citizens were chosen to participate in a sampling survey focusing on the service provided by their station with a view to get an understanding of how they feel about the service in the local community and what are some opportunities for improvement. The Inspection and Monitoring Unit reported that many citizens seemed surprised about being asked to participate in the survey as no one had ever included their opinions before in a survey,” she said.

However, she noted that building public trust and confidence in the JCF is one of the main goals of the TOPS completion and as such it was very critical to include this component as a part of the competition. “We feel that in going forward with any change and transformation of the JCF, we have to get an understanding on the ground of how the customer feels about the police in general and the kind of service that they receive. In getting that understanding, we are able to build programmes for improvement. Once there is an improvement in compliance with standard operating procedures there will ultimately be an improvement in the efficiency of policing processes, which will boost the trust and confidence of the citizen in policing services”, she stated.

POLICING CHALLENGES
TOPS is also designed to (i) boost the morale of police officers; (ii) foster greater conformance with JCF policies; (iii) enhance accountability, and (iv) improve efficiency in policing processes and procedures. To this end, “there is a palpable level of excitement among the rank and file for the competition, especially when the Inspection and Monitoring Team visits the stations to conduct inspections. Some even predict that their station will cop the top prize,” revealed Mr. Beaumont. All 39 stations in the Area 5 Command were visited and inspected. Pressed to reveal the range of policing challenges within the Division, Mr. Beaumont pointed out that problems vary “In St. Thomas, the main problem is praedial larceny. For St. Catherine North, St. Catherine South and St. Andrew North, the main issues are gangs, gang violence and cauterizing the murder rate. Also in St. Catherine South, which is a high density area, robberies and motor vehicle theft are also of major concern,” she said.

PRIZES
The contending stations are vying for a top prize of $100,000, which will be awarded to the Top Station to fund a station project of their choice as well as a trophy. Trophies will also be handed out in the following categories: Top Division; Top Prisoners in Custody Station; Top Customer Service Station; and, Top Stations in the other three divisions will be recognized. The awards will be presented on November 25 during Police Week 2020, which is expected to be observed from November 24 to December 1. 2020.

2 ROLE OF POCA
Resource constraints have necessitated conducting the TOPS competition in selected Area Commands to date. In last year’s pilot initiative, the Area 2 grouping – comprising St. Mary, St. Ann and Portland – as the focus, with the Bamboo Police Station in St. Ann emerging the champion; Portland, the top Division; an Oracabessa Station taking top prize for Prisoners in Custody Station.

However, Ms Byfield-Nugent is hopeful that the competition can expand public participation, specifically involving stakeholders within the Area Command that the competition is being held. Meanwhile, the PCOA continues its legal function to monitor the implementation of JCF policy; monitor standard of performance of all police throughout the island to ensure that international standards of policing are maintained; conduct inspections of the JCF; and perform such other functions as may be necessary to promote the efficiency of the police force among others. The seven-member Authority comprise: Chairman, Jacqueline Hinkson; Professor Anthony Harriott; Dr. The Hon. Marshall Hall; Norman Heywood; Gladstone Lewars; Errol Strong and Pastor Glen Samuels.PCOA works closely with other branches of the JCF to correct deficiencies, including the Inspectorate and Professional Standards Oversight Bureau (IPROB); Office of the Commissioner of Police; Legal Branch; Detention and Courts among others. There is also collaboration with the Police Service Commission which receives inspection reports from PCOA.

REFORM CONTINUES
At present, PCOA’s Executive Director is satisfied that most of the immediate objectives of the TOPS initiative are being met – and maintained that reform continues even beyond the competition itself. According to Ms Byfield-Nugent, “The competition forms part of our Accountability Framework initiative. Following on the heels of the competition, the PCOA will meet with the Area and Divisional Commanders to account for their performance, based on the findings of the inspections and agree on a set of deliverables for improvement. The Inspection and Monitoring team will then return to the field (inspections) to determine if deliverables have been met.”

For his part, Mr. Beaumont unequivocally states: “There has been great movement, as in the case of Area 2 (St. Ann, Portland and St. Mary), where the first TOPS Competition was held. We saw an improvement in the management of records, in particular the problematic Station Diary, the main record.” As for boosting morale Mrs. Byfield-Nugent reported: “This has been achieved.
The Area 2 Top Station – Bamboo Station in the St. Ann Division, paraded the trophy and cheque throughout the community and the trophy is on public display. This station now keeps us abreast of all their community activities. They used the prize money to improve the water supply at the station and also tiling.”

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