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We squander this opportunity to right wrongs at our peril

Friday, July 14, 2017

With the passage of the Zones of Special Operations Bill by both Houses of Parliament, the Government and its agencies, inclusive of the police and the army, now have within their grasp the legislative backing necessary to allow the security forces to make a telling impact on crime.

The legislation also provides Prime Minister Andrew Holness a critical tool with which to fulfil his promise last Sunday that the entire Government would be directed towards improving and increasing the safety and security of the nation's citizens.

While there are, as there should be, many concerns pertaining to human rights in the aforementioned Bill, the prime minister also promised: “When we go into some of these communities to implement the zones of special operations, we're not going to kick off nobody's door and beat down nobody's girl child. No!

“Alongside the police will be various agencies of the Government. Being a product of the inner-city, the innocent, law-abiding, hard-working residents can rest assured that we will not do anything that will hurt them.”

We cannot stress enough the importance of the security forces operating at their professional best in dealing with the citizens of this country, for we have had too many situations in the past where people's rights have been trampled on by overzealous and unprofessional individuals.

While use of force will be inevitable, it should only come into play when absolutely necessary and we expect that Commissioner of Police George Quallo is already briefing the commanders of his operations teams how to operate in these special zones. The buck stops there.

Mr Holness must hold fast to his commitment that the social agencies of government would be an integral part of all operations in these special zones. Certainly, we do not want a repeat of the case in Barrett Town, St James, when, after the police cleared the area of its notorious criminals and had gained the strong and public support of the people in Barrett Town, the social agencies, public and private, failed to live up to their end of the bargain.

The Government has made it quite clear that in order to save money and improve efficiencies, many State agencies are to be merged, a move we applaud. We make bold to suggest that the Government merges all the intelligence agencies, including the Constabulary's National Intelligence Bureau along with its many other sub-offices in the 19 police divisions; the Military Intelligence Unit and others if they exist, into one National Intelligence Unit. We need only look at the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) which is headed by a colonel of the Jamaica Defence Force, with a deputy commissioner of police as the second in command.

It is our strong belief that with one entity working in unison for the purposes of intelligence-gathering, analysis and dissemination, the fight against crime will be greatly enhanced.

It is our view that we now have an opportunity to right the many wrongs of how crime was handled in the past. We squander it at our peril.