Addressing today's Peoples National Party (PNP) press conference following a three day retreat of the Shadow Cabinet, the Opposition leader made it clear that the opposition PNP supported the calling of a State of Emergency in St. James. "It is our view that more could have been done to prevent it coming to this. Only urgent action by the Government will prevent further deterioration," Phillips declared.
He noted that "While we await the regulations, it is our view that the establishment of a proper civilian oversight mechanism would be useful to make sure that the rights of innocent citizens are not abused, even as we go after the violence producers."
The Opposition leader outlined his party's ten point crime plan which he said were "immediate steps that can and should be taken in the fight against crime."
The number one proplem he said was the morale of the security forces which "is the most urgent issue to be resolved in the fight against crime and which is being negatively affected by the Government’s delay in settling the public sector wage negotiations."
Dr. Phillips recommended that "the Government move immediately to settle the wage negotiations with the Police, which have been outstanding since April 2017. They have shown remarkable patience and must be shown the respect and consideration due to them. He said government should commit to "pay legal fees for the police for the actions carried our in the line of duty," and called on the JLP administration to institute an "immediate programme to repair the facilities that the police have to work in as they fight crime and violence."
The PNP leader further recomended that the police force be brought to full strength, "as at the present time, the JCF is understaffed by some 3500 officers. While the establishment provides for a complement of 14,000, the present complement is only 10,500. In a context of rising crime, the police force has been depleted by some 25%. An immediate priority is the recruitment and training to fill the 3500 positions in the JCF to bring the police force to its full strength."
He further pointed out that the government should "Provide the force with the mobility it needs to carry out its work."
"This means definitively cancelling the present contracts for the importation of the used cars. In addition, cancel the recently issued Purchase Orders given the supplier’s proven inability to perform and use the emergency procurement powers to import a reliable fleet of vehicles for the police. The police should be given the 800 cars they asked for."
Dr. Phillips, a former Minister of National Security in the Patterson and Simpson-Miller administrations, called for an end to political interference in the operation of the security forces, lamenting that "the Prime Minister and Minister of National Security must stop all interference in the operations of the Police Force. It is our view the JCF freed of political interference, would be more effective and use their existing powers to immediately enforce Searches/ Curfews in ALL High Crime Areas across the country without regard for political representation."
The Opposition leader called on the government to make crime fighting its priority, pointing out that "If billions of dollars could be found to influence voting in SE St. Mary by-election, or millions for high-end SUV vehicles for the Prime Minister’s Office, then resources must be available to deal with what is the most critical problem facing the country. The situation is even more unfortunate that $31 billion tax package did not include any provision for crime fighting which is the major challenge faced by Jamaicans on a daily basis."
He noted that there was an "urgent need to upgrade the technologies for intelligence gathering including the use of drones for surveillance in high crime areas and called on the government to immediately establish the Special Major Investigation Task Forces to dedicated to the investigation of murders in the high crime areas with focus on tracking top crime producers and persons of interest."
In doing this,he said, "there must be protection for investigative officers, while pulling together the best investigative persons that had been trained with assistance of international partners.
"Legal expertise should be provided for these task Forces to guide the preparation of cases for prosecution as was done with Operation Kingfish and with MOCA so that we can have the cases brought before the courts speedily. Currently, the conviction rate for murders is approximately 6%, which means that 94% get away scotch free," the Opposition leader lamented.
The other key areas of the Opposition's crime fighting plan included dealing with corruption, accelleration of justice reform, increasing cooperation with our international partners and increased funding and strengthening of victim support mechanisms.
- Countries: Jamaica