Jamaica’s top cop vows an end to violence

JAMAICA – Jamaica’s new Commissioner of Police, Lucius Thomas, has vowed to reduce the spiralling number of murders across the island.

Since the beginning of the year there have already been 166 homicides, following on from 1,469 in 2004.

Mr Thomas took over from Frances Forbes as Commissioner of Police a few weeks ago and will lead the Jamaica Constabulary Force for the next three years.

Speaking for the first time in his new role, he told the Caymanian Compass that a fresh approach to reducing homicides was top of his agenda.

‘Last year we saw an unprecedented number of murders which alarmed not only the force but all well-thinking Jamaicans at home and abroad,’ he said.

In a bid to reassure citizens, Mr. Thomas revealed that the force would be overhauling its strategy in relation to violent crime.

‘We are moving swiftly to implement an approach which gives priority to reducing the homicide rate in our island.’

Initially Mr. Thomas will concentrate resources and personnel in the four police divisions that persistently contribute to the high murder rate – St. Catherine North, St. Catherine South, St. Andrew North and St. Andrew.

Divisional commanders will be held directly responsible for implementing initiatives and building greater community support to target and arrest offenders.

‘Let me hasten to point out that a high percentage of our murders is directly connected to drugs, guns and gang-related activities,’ he said.

Operation King Fish, which combines the expertise of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, the Jamaica Defense Force and officers from the UK and the US, will also swing into action to investigate major crimes and narcotics offences.

As part of this international approach, Mr. Thomas revealed that a senior British law enforcement officer will be joining the ranks as a depute commissioner.

The officer, who has not yet been named, is understood to be a veteran of Scotland Yard and will be in place by the beginning of March.

Mr. Thomas said members of Operation King Fish had been carefully selected and vetted to ensure a high degree if credibility, capability and trust.

‘I must emphasize that the fight against organized crime – money laundering, drugs and guns – calls for teamwork.

‘Any attempt to dismantle these criminal networks from an individual country’s perspective will be ineffective.

‘This monster is like the hydra of the Greek mythology – as you cut off one head, the snake grows many more. Our international partners have made available to us a number of highly trained investigators with special skills in case preparation, investigation strategies and witness management techniques,’ he said.

‘These investigators will be working alongside us as mentors in ensuring that targeted criminal networks are properly investigated.

‘No effort will be spared in our attempts to dismantle these criminal networks, putting the culprits where they belong – behind bars and to ensure that they are kept there,’ he said.

A full-time attorney-at-law has also been assigned to the task force to provide legal guidance from the beginning to the end of an investigation.

In a further move to crack down on crime, the establishment of a Professional Standards Branch of the force is to be made a priority.

There will be a merger and rationalization of the resources in the Inspection Branch, the Office of Professional Responsibility and the Bureau of Special Investigations.

‘The Professional Standards Branch is crucial to ongoing efforts to build a professional workforce, which will deliver the type of high quality service which the Jamaican people deserve.’

One of the branch’s main functions will be to investigate police misconduct and corruption, which is seen as one of the greatest problems within the force.

And Mr. Thomas assured officers that they should not be afraid to have their actions scrutinized, if they carry out their duties diligently.

‘I do not support the use of fear as a leadership strategy. Fear creates avoidance behaviour as no one wants to make mistakes and therefore it inhibits growth and change. Those who make genuine mistakes in the execution of their duties should not be afraid of scrutiny.

‘The same percentage of ignoble members of the force who bring the good name of the force into disrepute through corrupt practices must take heed or suffer the consequences. Make no mistake, even the private citizen who offers bribes to these lawmen will also bear the brunt of the anti-corruption policy,’ he said.

Jamaica declared a violence free day this past Sunday to mark the 60th birthday of reggae legend Bob Marley.

There were, however, five murders, including the slaying of one policeman as he attempted to stop a robbery.