Speech

Members of the House and, indeed, the public at large would certainly have been concerned at the news yesterday afternoon that the Commissioner of Police, Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin, had tendered his resignation. I am to advise the House and the nation that following discussions involving the Police Services Commission, the Commissioner, the Minister of National Security and myself, Rear Admiral Lewin has withdrawn his resignation and will continue to serve as Commissioner of Police.
The task of the Commissioner in leading the Police Force in the fight against crime and lawlessness is an enormously difficult and challenging one that requires the support of everyone. The Commissioner has been reassured that he has the full backing of the Government and the Police Services Commission. He needs to be assured as well that he has the full support of the men and women of the Police Force as well as the support of all the well-thinking people of Jamaica.
In recent times, the public has had cause to be alarmed at the spiraling murder rate and the wanton acts of violence. The resources of the combined security forces are being fully mobilized to wage a vigorous and sustained initiative to restore safety to our streets and communities, to apprehend criminals, dismantle the criminal gangs and recover illegal guns. The cooperation and assistance of the citizens, especially those in the communities where gunmen parade the streets brandishing their guns and terrorizing defenseless citizens, are vital to the success of these efforts and I urge them to give the Police that support.
The Government is taking steps to support the efforts of the Police in a number of critical, strategic areas. These include additional resources to increase mobility and technical support for operational activity. A number of legislative changes will be brought to Parliament to strengthen the capacity of the Police to apprehend those engaged in violent criminal activity, especially those involving gun crimes, and to keep them off the streets. The Attorney General has been instructed to fast-track the preparation of the necessary legislation.
Arrangements are being made to expedite the trial of cases involving gun crimes to ensure that those who are guilty are not allowed free reign to continue their mayhem while the judicial process grinds slowly.
The reorganization of the Jamaica Constabulary Force to transform it into an efficient peace-keeping law-enforcement and crime fighting machine is of paramount importance and urgency. The report of the Strategic Review of the JCF, which was conducted by a panel of eminent local and foreign experts, has been submitted and the National Security Council, which includes representatives of the Police Services Commission, completed its preliminary review just this morning. It is a comprehensive report which addresses many of the structural and organizational weaknesses of the Force. The review is to be discussed further with key stakeholders including the Police Federation, the Police Officers Association and the Police Oversight Authority.
In order to ensure the widest possible dissemination of the changes proposed so that the consultation can be adequately informed, the executive summary and complete list of recommendations will be published in the JCF Force Orders on Friday. At the same time, I have directed the Minister of National Security to make available to his Opposition counterpart a copy of the full review and to invite him to discuss its findings and recommendations and seek consensus on these and on the implementation programme that will follow.
I am advised that some members of the Force have been apprehensive about the changes that the review would recommend. I want to assure them that those who are committed to serving the Force and their country faithfully and well have nothing to fear. I encourage them to examine the recommendations which will be published on Friday. The National Security Council has not accepted all of the recommendations. It has endorsed the vast majority and will be proposing modifications to some. We must be prepared to work together and quickly to sign off on the changes to be implemented and begin as early as possible to put those changes in place.
The Government is also seeking to address some of the difficult conditions under which the Police have to work. Major repairs are to be undertaken to several of our police stations where the state of disrepair is an insult to the men and women who have to work there.
Negotiations with the Police Federation toward a new wage agreement began yesterday. Several outstanding and thorny issues will have to be addressed. These include the issue of a 40-hour work week and the legitimacy of members of the Force doing private work. I wish to assure the members of the Force that the Government is not opposed in principle to the demands in relation to those two issues. There are budgetary implications and other issues that will have to be resolved to ensure that the public interest is protected. If both sides approach these negotiations with reasonableness and goodwill, we will find a way and I have issued instructions to the responsible Minister, the Honourable Dwight Nelson, accordingly.
The Government has a clear and indisputable responsibility to lead the efforts to return our country to peace and stability where our people can walk the streets, go about their business and go to their beds without fear. The security forces are our principal agents for discharging that responsibility and they must be assured of our full support. But every well thinking Jamaican has a duty to join in that effort to take back control of our communities and to demonstrate to the criminal elements that we will not surrender to them.