‘We have to pull together’

ROSE HALL, St James — Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang has made an urgent appeal for better collaboration among the leadership of bodies representing the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), the commissioner’s office, and his ministry.

Speaking at the Inspectors Symposium at Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa in St James on Wednesday, he argued that the Government has invested too heavily in the JCF, especially since he assumed portfolio responsibility six years ago, for any ill will to exist.

The conference was held under the theme: ‘Bridging the Divide: Initiating the Change’.

“I’m very pleased with the work you’re doing. I want to commend you, and we will continue to give the assurance to invest. But I make one last plea in this process: I think it’s an opportunity for us to collaborate. There is no antagonism between my office and the police force. If you don’t work well, I don’t do well — and I don’t get involved in operation. And if the police don’t do well, the country doesn’t do well — that’s a fact of life. We have a big job out there. It is challenging. It is difficult, and it’s risky,” Dr Chang said.

“We have to pull together,” he urged.

There has been tension in the past between former chairman of Jamaica Police Federation Rohan James and the leadership of the JCF. In July, James was interdicted over remarks he made at a funeral for a slain colleague.

“Mark my word, and I also want to say to the high command and our commissioner: ‘God help you if the membership is not paid their overtime this month,’ ” James was quoted as saying, adding that the federation will not be “muzzled, intimidated, nor bamboozled”.

Accused of conduct contrary to the “discipline, good order and guidance of the force”, he was slapped with four charges, including being disrespectful to seniors in rank and communicating to the public certain sensitive issues within the JCF without permission from the commissioner.

On Wednesday the security minister noted that while he personally has a good rapport with the police, there is room for improvement when it comes to official channels.

“Institutionally, the federation board and the Government have to have a greater level of collaboration between the leadership, the commissioner’s office, the federation, and the ministry. Because the reality of life is… we have invested heavily in the force. What we have done, you won’t have the opportunity to do it again,” he argued.

He cited the construction of police stations that will last 30 years, as well as the installation of communications and station management systems among the groundbreaking investments the Government has made in the police force.

He also highlighted the procurement of vehicles tailor-made for policing as one of the investments made since he assumed portfolio responsibility for the JCF.

“We have procured over 1,400 vehicles for the police and for the first time we have sought to buy — for a long time — police vehicles,” he underscored.

As he has often done in the past, Dr Chang also pointed out that more police stations have been built under his tenure than any of his predecessors in the history of the force.

“Many are under major repairs and 11 are under construction, and there are two major stations that are in the process of procurement — the St Catherine North Divisional Headquarters and the Westmoreland Division Headquarters, which could become [the] area headquarters in due course. A KMR [Kingston Metropolitan Region] is to be established, and that is also in the process of procurement,” he said.

He also spoke of additional work to be done on the vital communications system in the near future.

“This Government set out to upgrade the entire P25 radio system and by the end of this financial year the police will have communication from end to end in Jamaica for the first time, not only efficient policing but end-to-end communication,” Dr Chang boasted.

“We’re expanding the network of connectivity to ensure that all police stations will have effective connectivity and [that] we can execute on the new station record management system effectively. n the modern world it is impossible to function efficiently without that kind of connectivity,” the minister added.