Jamaica’s commissioner of police urges regional cooperation

Major General Antony Anderson, the commissioner of police for the Jamaica Constabulary Force, at the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police conference at the Marriott Beach Resort on Wednesday. - PHOTO: Spencer Fordin

The Caribbean encapsulates many nations of different sizes and cultures, but when their police commissioners get together, they can count on a common language and a shared set of goals.

For Antony Anderson, the commissioner of police for the Jamaica Constabulary Force, there are only positives to be gained from speaking with his counterparts from disparate places like Cayman, Bermuda and the Bahamas. Crime, said Anderson, takes a consistent shape across jurisdictions, and the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police exists to minimise its impact.

“It’s interesting,” he said Thursday at the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police conference hosted at Cayman’s Marriott Beach Resort. “In one of the earlier presentations we had, somebody said ‘A cop is a cop is a cop.’ There are differences, but it’s scaling differences. The problems tend to be the same.”

Anderson spent more than 30 years in the Jamaica Defence Force and earned the rank of major general before beginning his police career, and he’s been Jamaica’s top cop for less than a year. He served as chief of defence staff and later as national security adviser to Jamaica’s prime minister and Cabinet.

Now, in his new role, Anderson finds himself at the forefront of the war on drugs. The International Narcotics Control Strategy Report of 2018, a report issued by the US Department of State, stated that Jamaican authorities had eradicated 186 hectares of cannabis plants and seized more than 20.2 metric tons (44,533 pounds) of cured marijuana in the first nine months of 2018.

Cayman, a much smaller jurisdiction than Jamaica, seized 2,489 pounds of ganja last year, a 150% increase over the year before. Anderson said that increased seizures mean that the system is working and that improved communications between jurisdictions can only benefit society at large.

“Our criminal networks cross boundaries,” said Anderson of cooperating with other police forces. “They do their activities in all sorts of jurisdictions, not only inside the Caribbean but outside the Caribbean. Therefore, we have to collaborate in a similar way to deal with the problems.

“It’s about networks, and those networks – once they’re established – will do whatever illicit activity that makes money, including the movement of money, the proceeds of crime and trafficking of anything that is of value.”

Anderson said that Jamaica deals with ganja production at the source, and the police have increased interdiction exercises on the roads before they can get to the open seas. There’s also a robust effort to monitor the maritime space between Cayman and Jamaica, and Anderson said Jamaica has a liaison officer in Florida who tracks the movement of narcotics and guns in the region.

Jamaica, a nation of nearly three million people, comes to the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police conference with a higher profile than some of its regional counterparts. Anderson said that every nation that attends the conference can pick up something from their peers that they have not considered before.

“What we do is share experiences, best practices,” he said. “Also, it’s an opportunity to see some of the technologies that are out there that can assist us to dismantle these networks, or certainly to infiltrate them and to know what they’re doing and what they’re going to be doing next. These networks are very agile. Sometimes, when you’re dealing with national government sovereignty and regional issues, you’re not quite as agile. These [conferences], on a technical level, allow us to coordinate very rapidly.”

There is no magic formula, of course, and police officers of all nations will have setbacks and challenges as criminal networks adapt and improvise around their enforcement strategies. Anderson, who took his post last September, sees curbing the scourge of international drug trade as a challenge.

“Crime has been with us for a while and is likely to remain,” he said. “What we really need to do is minimise its effects and disrupt it as best as possible to make the region safer for our citizens. That’s what we’re doing.

“One of the things is how we invest in technology [individually] and collectively. How we share information is critical. How responsive we are to each other’s concerns, that’s very important. We have done tremendous work with the Cayman Islands Police Service on the sharing of information. We’ve been able to progress cases that are being pursued here through activities in Jamaica.”