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US ambassador says senior JCF members should take lie-detector tests

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Senior staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, February 17, 2020

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UNITED States Ambassador to Jamaica Donald Tapia has suggested that modernisation efforts within the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) must begin at the top.

Tapia, who was speaking to Jamaica Observer editors and reporters last Tuesday at the newspaper's Beechwood Avenue office in St Andrew, disclosed that in a sit-down with the police it was made clear that the polygraph testing of new recruits and rank-and-file members was not enough to ensure transformation of the 152-year-old force.

“...Today to become a JCF officer you have to take a polygraph test. I think it was last year it was 150 people that applied to become a JCF [member], only like 75 of them actually passed the polygraph test to move on. So that 75, or whatever the number is, those are all clean officers. But, my point to them is the fact is, okay, so they're clean, [but] what about this section up here? They've been here for five years. They didn't take a polygraph test,” Tapia said, referring to the force's officer level, “They didn't take a test.”

In 2013 then Police Commissioner Owen Ellington signalled the JCF's intention to begin conducting polygraph tests on new applicants.

Ellington said then that the guiding mantra of the JCF's strategy has always been that 'prevention is better than cure'.

“Thus, if we are able to predict the likelihood that a force applicant will be susceptible to corruption, or is already involved in unethical practice, he/she can be rejected,” he stated in an Observer column.

He pointed out at that time, also, that the promotion of officers had surpassed the “hard worker” and “know-how” concept, with the introduction of screening of all members before elevation to the next rank.

“Not only must they demonstrate knowledge of the job and competence, but their conduct, both on and off the job, is scrutinised at length. Gazetted officers are held at an even higher standard as they undergo a gruelling process of psychometric evaluation, panel interviews, ethical screening, and mandatory polygraph testing. All candidates must be compliant with the provisions of the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption, which stipulates the yearly submission of declaration of assets and liabilities. They must also submit to the high command receipts from their last three declarations,” Ellington shared then.

In March 2019 the JCF announced that more than 650 members and applicants had undergone polygraph testing since 2017.

It said that the tests had been conducted by the Polygraph Unit, which falls under the effective policing pillar of the Ministry of National Security's Five-Pillar Crime Reduction Strategy.

The JCF noted then that the tests formed part of measures to improve professional standards, as well as enhance the force's public image.

But Tapia is contending that corruption begins at the top and moves downwards, effectively pouring cold water on the screening of applicants and members who fall outside of the top brass.

“So, we've got to start here and come this way (with a top-to-bottom sweep of his hand), [instead of] starting here and going this way,” the US diplomat said. “Because if corruption is at the top it's going to sink. It will run on down to the new officers and they're going to see that they can get away with it,” said Tapia.


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