When I happen to be in the city of Kingston on a weekend, I rarely leave my apartment. So when I make the effort to venture out, it has to be for a really good cause.
The JCF Transformation 2023 Expo was a good cause for me on the weekend.
I attended the expo on Saturday afternoon and left the National Arena at the end feeling immense pride in what our Constabulary Force was able to pull off.
The four day expo primarily did one thing for me- It humanized the Police.
Our history tells us that there are many citizens who considered the Police force as a group of people who were isolated, a group to be feared and a group with rogue members.
And due to several hurtful and unfortunate episodes with the Police, many Jamaicans have developed a cold disposition towards the Force and its members.
This is especially evident among poorer Jamaicans and quite understandable.
As rightly said by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, a commonly used term to describe the Police for many decades has been ‘Babylon’
It’s a term that is known to mean oppression or being oppressive.
And for many, that’s how they’ve seen the Constabulary.
The Constabulary has been labelled as Babylon even though the institution’s mandate is to serve, protect and reassure.
But the bad apples have for many years soured the entire Force and made it difficult for the JCF to restore confidence and trust with the people they serve.
In recent years, the Constabulary has been making visible efforts to again humanize the Force and let the public know that their personnel are here for them.
We’ve seen the community walks, the on the ground and the social media engagements.
And on the weekend, we saw one of the biggest efforts yet to bring the faces of the JCF to the public in a way that communicates- I am a friend, I am family, I am one of you and I am here to serve you.
Quite often when we see the JCF, it’s a member of the High Command, perhaps speaking on a matter of crime that has garnered public interest.
What is also often captured is footage of some kind of confrontation.
The images of positive intervention aren’t always what populates our social media timelines even though these instances far outnumber the occasions when the interaction of the Police with the public was unacceptable.
Recognizing this, the JCF has kicked into high gear its efforts to change the stain on the face of the nation’s primary crime fighting agency.
The Expo presented the faces of hardworking Jamaicans who took the oath to serve and protect us every day.
It was the faces of scores of smart and professional members working in different units of the JCF.
Over 20 thousand Jamaicans gathered to hear from these amazing troopers how their Force operates daily to keep them safe and fight crime.
The JCF delivered quite solid in relation to its public education effort- telling citizens how they’re transforming their personnel and improving the quality of service delivery through new technologies to make their processes more efficient.
We were informed about a new piece of facial recognition technology for example that is meant to spot the faces of someone who is on the radar of the Police using CCTV cameras across our town centres and busy thoroughfares.
It is being described as a game changer because from a headquarters somewhere, a camera in the network can spot a wanted man, a person of interest or a missing person and the system will prompt the officers to activate their response protocols to nab or find whomever has come up on the system.
I’ve always been a big supporter of Jamaica Eye- the country’s primary surveillance system.
We’ve seen and heard how the surveillance system has aided the Police in its work so far. Therefore the build out of the network can only be a greater good.
In relation to this, I hope for 2 things coming out of the Expo-
- All the tests on this new system will be completed and the technology rolled out across the country ASAP.
And 2. I hope the government will have those 1200 additional cameras added to the state’s network before year end.
The aim at the moment is to install 3000 cameras and some 1800 are now apart of the network.
Also, as I mentioned previously, body worn cameras are a benefit on so many fronts.
The advanced cameras being brought in now are a welcomed addition and were on display at the Expo.
These cameras we were told can be managed remotely and have live streaming capabilities.
The cameras are dual-SIM-operated and are able to continue live streaming no matter where the Police are because it picks up the cell tower of the telecommunications provider that is closest to the device.
We also heard recently too that the JCF is working to switch over officers to the uniforms that are compatible with these cameras- this was a problem preventing the Police from using the cameras.
And the benefits of using the cameras are well known-
1.It captures evidence AND
2.It helps in circumstances where the matter would be left to a he said/ she said situation.
The Expo was intended to contribute to a turning tide.
But this shift will not be fruitful unless all of what was placed on exhibition over those four days can be fully operationalised and maintained by our Constabulary.
Importantly too, in all the efforts to humanize the Force including this brilliant expo, it is the hope that those efforts mend the trust deficit.
The aim is for people to feel confident that they can inform the Police about a situation, provide them with useful intelligence without thinking that they’ll be targeted after.
Being an informant should not be a death trap in Jamaica.
Finally, here is what was also a heart warming touch coming out of this Expo.
While I was there Saturday evening, so many of our youngsters ran to one of the JCF’s personnel with a roving microphone to say they wanted to become Detectives- the backbone of the Constabulary.
Now even if this was a spur of the moment response, what the Expo did was to show you that the positives of the vocation inspired our youngsters. The Expo showed you that being a member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force was something to be proud of.
This was a good initiative to boost morale, confidence, build transparency and lend a substantive hand in mending the trust deficit.
We will watch to see if this translates on the frontline as we interface with our Police and judge their efficiency in responding to law breaking.