Monday 6 July, 2020

Accountability breaches uncovered from bulletproof vest probe

File photo

File photo

Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) members affected by the longstanding shortage of bulletproof vests have resorted to sharing the protective gear with their colleagues, a probe by Loop News has revealed.

The practice, while it eases the shortage, presents a whole new issue and challenge in the form of lack of accountability among some of the crime fighters executing their duties on the streets.

The probe into the development showed that some officers, who have opted to borrow the protective vests from colleagues, at times end up placing members of the public in awkward positions when seeking to identify officers by the official numbers assigned to particular protective gear.

“The practice of police officers sharing vests is not new, but it is a major breach, as what it does is creates a problem for members of the public to identify a JCF member by the number assigned on each vest,” said a senior member of the JCF.

To go even further, some members are said to have developed the habit of seeking to cover the numbers on the borrowed vests with tape, the probe revealed. This clearly presents the major issue of accountability.

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“It is an unwritten rule among those who choose to go down that route,” said another police source when asked about the potential for mix-up in the identification of particular officers on duty via the numbers on their protective vests.

“Those who do it because of critical protection needs amidst the continued shortage know that they have to protect those from whom they borrow the vests,” the officer explained.

The police have stepped up their campaign to flood streets across the country with more members as they seek to break the back of the crime monster, but questions about the amount of resources these officers are given to take on the tasks that involve them risking lives and limbs are again being raised.

Concerns have emerged as the probe earlier this week revealed that a number of the island’s police officers are being sent to take up duties without proper protection in the form of bulletproof vests.

In fact, it has emerged that hundreds of officers, many of them just leaving training school, are being sent on the road daily to operate without the proper protective gear in the form of bulletproof vests. 

High-level sources said many of the affected JCF members have been forced to work in areas where Zones of Special Operations (ZOSO) or states of emergency have been imposed.

Members of the Police High Command, when questioned about the matter, said steps are being taken to address the concerns that have placed a number of JCF members on edge, especially with criminals in several quarters becoming more brazen of late, as they seek to unleash hellish-like terror on a number of communities across the country.

Contacts made with senior members of the Jamaica Police Federation confirmed that the reports about the shortage of vests is not only true, but also a major area of concern among police personnel.

"Yes, we have raised the concerns and the police federation has been advocating for these matters, shortage of vest included, to be addressed," said Arlene McBean, the former Chairman of the federation.

Patra Rowe, the current Chairman of the federation, also spoke on the issue, saying it was something he and members of his team have been advocating for.

He said he was assured that the matter was being dealt with urgently.

He also revealed that coming out of those discussions, he was informed that up to last week a number of vests that were ordered by the JCF, arrived in the island, and promises were made that more are to come.

But despite those assurances, reports are emerging that some members of the JCF are dissatisfied with the pace at which the matter is being handled.

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