KINGSTON – Minister of national security Robert Montague says that the government has revamped the early retirement scheme for members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) in an effort to rid the constabulary of corrupt cops.
Montague, in a statement in the House of Representatives, yesterday, detailing activities aimed at reducing criminal violence and ridding the JCF of corrupt members, admitted that corruption by a “minority” of JCF members has remained a significant challenge in an atmosphere in which “there is an inherent desire from citizens of the country to support the police in their efforts”.
“That same citizenry, in addition to various civil society groups, have been very vocal in their call for the force to be rid of corrupt elements. As a government, we have been responsive to the demands made by the public and other groups. As such, last year we provided a mechanism, in the form of a revamped Early Retirement Scheme for police officers, that would help achieve this objective, he told the House of Representatives.
“The new policy is with the commissioner [of police]. He fully understands the issue of corruption, and the overall impact that it has on the reputation of the organization, and has committed to begin utilization of that important tool to hasten the transition of members of the force, at all levels, who are tainted by corruption or otherwise ineffective,” Montague said.
He added that his ministry has already identified the funds necessary to underwrite the retirement programme and is prepared to ask the ministry of finance for more financing.
In a wide-ranging statement, in which he attempted to fill the information gap in Parliament triggered by the a six-week Christmas/new year break for members, Montague also admitted that, despite significant reductions in five major crimes last year, and the retrieval of 859 illegal guns and 21,764 rounds of ammunition, there were 1,616 murders and 1,469 shootings.
He said, however, that the high level of murders should not cause the public to ignore the combined efforts of stakeholders in the security sector that have resulted in declines in five of seven major categories of crime.
“I am the first to admit that, while we are heartened, we are still not satisfied,” Montague told his colleagues in the House of Representatives.
Turning to the recently declared state of emergency (SOE) in St James, Montague described it as the government’s response to an “unacceptable trend in the country’s murder rate”.
He said that so far the SOE has resulted in the detention of 197 people as well as the seizure of four firearms and approximately 30 rounds of ammunition.
He said that among the 197 detained, 10 were wanted for serious crimes, including murder and shooting, and the security forces have also advised that 83 of the 197 are “strongly believed to be connected to gangs in the parish”.
The minister said that currently there are 178 individuals in custody, some of whom are the subject of further investigations.
“We asked for, and are getting, unprecedented support from the public. We ask that members of the public continue to flood us with information. Tell us where the guns are. Tell us where the gunmen, lotto scammers and criminals are,” he stated.
“Let me hasten to point out that the declaration of a state of emergency is not a panacea. It is not a cure-all to our problems. It is meant to cauterize the situation, while providing the space for other sustainable interventions,” he added.
Montague also included what he named as “operations in support of the SOE”, which included: operations launched in St Ann, St Mary and Westmoreland; and identification of Portmore, St Catherine, as a likely hiding place for displaced criminals and subject to targeted raids on several premises.
He also announced that the Mobile Reserve and St Andrew police had picked up two men yesterday believed to be linked to a shooting incident in August Town on Monday night, and continued operations by the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigative Branch and the Fugitive Apprehension Team which have resulted in the apprehension of two men wanted for assault and multiple sex offences.