JIS News

It is not a job for the faint of heart or those of poor character, but instead, requires a willingness to risk life and limb for the protection and safety of others, and an almost reflexive ability to rise to the challenge presented by the every day rigours of the job, all in the name of law and order, and service.
Such is the nature of the job for the men and women of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), and the Government, through the Ministry of National Security, has renewed the thrust to transform and modernize the Force, by intensifying the recruitment drive, to build a more professional cadre of police men and women.
In his contribution to last year’s Sectoral debate, National Security Minister, Dr. Peter Phillips, revealed that plans were in place for the “re-branding” of the Force with the expected addition of 3,500 officers by 2008. “We will be taking the opportunity offered by this increase to introduce a comprehensive programme of re-branding to attract a higher level of recruits, upgrade the curriculum and extend the period of training for all levels in the Force to achieve the desired levels of professionalism,” he informed.
It was to this end, he explained, that the entry requirements for constables at the Jamaica Police Academy were being upgraded while the curriculum for basic recruit training was also being revised. The revision, the Minister said, “would see the expansion of subject areas required for modern policing in the country’s complex social environment and in keeping with international standards”.
Almost a year later, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) in Charge of Training, Delworth Heath, assures JIS News that the “re-branding” initiative is indeed at full throttle.
“We are implementing now a reform and modernization programme in earnest and we are not paying lip service to this. the JCF is very earnest and is very serious about modernizing and reforming. The JCF has had its fair share of bad publicity and has struggled with its image for a while, and we are convinced that the organization is still a good organization that is responding to the needs around it, especially in recent times,” he states. ACP Heath notes that the errors of the past had been duly noted and now, “we are now bringing the organization on a path where we modernize, and build within it the capacity to renew itself over time.”
According to the Assistant Commissioner, the JCF is seeking to increase its membership to 12,000 by 2008. “The JCF has been, and currently operates below our established strength, meaning the number of persons that we have on the books, as against what we call our working strength. I think we are now short of over 1600. The ISCF (Island Special Constabulary Force) is also short by over 1,300. Both forces would be short of close to 3,000 persons, and the last manpower audit that was done five years ago, is suggesting that the establishment of the regular force, should actually be 12,000 if we want to come on par with other countries, where the police/citizen ratio is concerned,” ACP Heath discloses.
He says the JCF wants to attract a greater number of high calibre candidates, because, although such candidates have come forward in the past, “the truth is, if you look at the recruitment records you will see where a number of persons, who have come forward have not satisfied the bill in a number of ways.”
He discloses that the records over the past three years have shown that only 10 per cent of the persons, who sign on for training successfully make it through. “In yesteryear, people were of the view, and some of them still are, that all we have in the police force is brawn and no brain. The nature of policing today seriously requires that every single policeman has a high level of intellect and integrity, is very conceptual in his whole outlook, is very committed and has the capacity to take on the great challenges that society and the world is posing now, where policing is concerned,” he asserts.
Today, the basic academic requirements for a person to make it into the Force are four CXCs or O’Levels, with Mathematics and English Language as compulsory subjects. The applicant must be a Jamaican by birth or naturalization and must be at least 18 years of age, and no older than 40 years. ACP Heath notes that quite a number of police forces across the world are asking for first degrees as a basic entry requirement and while this is now a necessary condition to enter the JCF, “I am happy to say that this is something that we are actually working on in Jamaica. In the very near future, we want to start to graduate police officers with at least an associate degree.”
But while the academic and age requirements are important, ACP Heath says that integrity and commitment must be chief among the qualities of those who hope to protect and serve. “We are saying that with basic education, you must come with a high level of integrity and you must prove to us that you are committed and that is one of the reasons why we have now introduced in our selection process, the whole matter of psychometric testing, where we try to identify the personalities that we are recruiting. So, don’t believe that because you have 10 O’Levels, we will take you. You must come with an impeccable character,” he notes.
The JCF also carries out antecedent investigations on all recruits, once they have applied and passed the psychometric test. “We carry out a series of investigations on you (recruits) in the community that you live, the schools you went to, the crowd you hang out with, the notary publics, who know you, and in all of this, we expect you to come out squeaky clean,” he says.
He tells JIS News that unfortunately, some of the character references have been less than honest with the information that they provide on the recruits. “Some of these people (applicants) might have behaviours that are less than desirable, such as being aggressive, etcetera and there are those who feel that the police force is the best place for them and this will mold them into good citizens,” ACP Heath says.
However, he cautions that the JCF must have accurate information about the individuals “because if we don’t get factual information on people’s background, and we find it out later on about them, we are going to dismiss them, wherever they are in the service, whether in training or otherwise,” he warns. In addition, he says, when the JCF is made aware of any problems that the applicant may have, then the necessary assistance can be given.
Under phase one of the JCF’s two-year training programme, successful applicants receive basic training at the police academy in Twickenham Park, beginning with at least two weeks of orientation where they are educated about the police service, including the benefits, and the challenges. This period is also used to scrutinize the recruits and take decisions regarding whether they are suitable for the job. Next, they go through six weeks of foundation training. “This is where we spend some time building them in terms of courses such as introduction to psychology and sociology, so that they understand society, government, the people they will police, and the context in which they are policing,” the Assistant Commissioner tells JIS News.
Recruits also receive a course in remedial English and are exposed to protocol, social etiquette, and a range of other areas that are crucial for them to develop social skills, and to prepare them for the course in laws and police procedures.
“This includes the laws, statutes, police powers, police operations, and to support that, we provide special training in safe encounter – that is to prepare the police officer to engage citizens, whether in terms of questioning, seeking information, warning them for prosecution, and arrests,” he elaborates. Supporting the safe encounter training is also a module in human rights and use of force. “This is one of the big issues where we are concern at this time. This is an area in which we have come under a lot of criticism, so we are spending a lot of time, preparing the officers,” ACP Heath says.
In addition, the 32-week training programme also focuses on a continuous rigourous physical training regime, including drills, as the physical requirements of policing demands physical fitness. Recruits are also trained in the use of firearms and field craft, which focuses on the patrol duties on the streets, in a community, and special operations, and other related areas.
Training is also heavily focused on behaviour modification. “In the past, much of the emphasis was on developing and imparting the technical skills and so built into our training is a lot of role play and scenarios to give us the opportunity to observe them operating in different situations, see how they react and try to help them to understand themselves and the people that they will exercise the law over,” he points out.
A very important feature in this effort is engagement with members of the public. “We are going to increase the number of contact hours that will give students the opportunity to have face to face discussions with members of the public, in particular inner city community youth.we also need to look at minority groups, which also have their own belief that the system is against them,” he states.
In the meantime, formal relationships have been established with a number of countries to help the JCF to continue to lift the standards of recruits, by enhancing and increasing its offerings. “We have had a long history with the United Kingdom in particular and the United States and Canada. Where Britain is concerned, we have had a long association with the Metropolitan Police. they have been very supportive of the JCF. We have also had a long association with Centrex (Bramshill, UK), which is the premier college for senior police officers in Europe,” he notes. In recent times, that institution has supported the JCF in developing a Critical Incident Command programme that was delivered in Jamaica for the region. Centrex has also certified a number of key police personnel across the region and has supported the JCF in the development of a Caribbean Security Sector Senior Command course. This joint training programme, involves all law enforcement agencies including the police, correctional services, and customs.
“We have run three of these programmes so far. two in Trinidad, and one in Jamaica. The University of the West Indies supports that programme in a meaningful way,” ACP Heath says.
The JCF has also had strong support from the United States International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Programme (ICITAP). “They did a lot of training for us especially in criminal investigation.
We have also been benefiting from training at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police College, a highly reputable institution. The French have supported us and in more recent years, they have done a series of training programmes with us, where they send officers to support us in some highly specialized areas. We continue to enjoy good working relations with those countries and others,” he says.
ACP Heath indicates that the JCF is now looking to the African continent, to explore the training and learning possibilities that are offered there.
A new batch of recruits began training in mid-April. These included 100 regular police officers and 75 special constables. He emphasizes that training lasts for a total of two years and after successful completion of basic training at Twickenham Park, trainees then “pass out” and are posted in divisions across Jamaica, where they continue to work while receiving on-the-job training.
While posted at these divisions, recruits are assessed, to ensure that they demonstrate the level of competencies that are required of them. At the end of that period, those persons who demonstrate the appropriate capabilities are confirmed in the job as a police officer and graduate at that stage.
Persons can be dismissed at any stage, including while doing on-the-job training at the various divisions. “If for any reason it is proven that they can’t cope with the job, then they would not be confirmed and their service would be terminated,” he tells JIS News.
In fact, of any batch, he says, “we can lose up to five per cent of the persons, who we would enlist for one reason or the other – if we see any inclination of dishonesty, excessively aggressive behaviour, uncivil behaviour, or if persons fail to live up to both the academic or physical rigours of the training”.The next batch of 105 recruits are expected to pass out from the academy at the end of May or early June. In the meantime, he informs that the JCF has collaborated with the HEART Trust/NTA to develop a new curriculum, implementation of which has begun. “We are now fine tuning that input in our training. It is very clear from where we are at this moment, that it is going to significantly extend the number of months that they spend in the institution,” he informs.
ACP Heath is encouraging suitable persons to apply to the Force as he feels it is an extremely fruitful career for any young person. “It affords them the opportunity to make meaningful contribution to their country’s development, and it allows them to pursue their own personal development. The JCF offers more educational and career opportunities than most other employees,” he assures, noting the wide range of exciting career options and opportunities.
In addition, he points out, “the organization itself has developed training programmes to support career development and any specialty you want to take on, the possibility is there.there are refresher courses, and management and supervisory courses”.
One example of the scope of the opportunities available from study within the JCF is the special teacher-education course for police trainers and teachers, that is being offered in collaboration with Mico Teachers’ College. Currently there are also 78 officers in training at Mico pursuing the teacher education diploma, specializing in police science.
“What we are doing is developing a cadre of persons, who will be re-entering the system shortly to help to develop a new ethos in police training, to ensure that the reform process is sustainable,” ACP Heath outlines.
Recently, the JCF introduced a Masters degree programme in national security studies, delivered through the Department of Management Studies at the UWI. Last year, 15 officers graduated from this programme and there are 13 currently pursuing that course. A number of academic programmes are also carried out at the JCF staff college. “Since 2002, we have been delivering the UWI certificate in public administration and we have turned out about five groups of officers out of that programme, most of who have gone back to the UWI to do their first and second degrees,” ACP Heath informs.
He adds that, “there are a number of contemporary issues coming into policing now that requires higher level training. We also intend to get all our training programmes accredited”.
Those who excel are well rewarded, as the JCF has 12 ongoing special “fast-track” programmes for outstanding officers. “So where we have persons who demonstrate outstanding leadership capabilities, commitment, capacity to learn and to develop and manage, we sift those out of the system and place them on a fast track (programme)”.

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