Jamaica: “Lie Detector Tests for Cops: Forbes Outlines New Measures to Stamp Out Police Corruption”

Staff reporter Karyl Walker reports for the Jamaica Observer.

THE police chief warned yesterday that cops seeking promotion to senior ranks or to assignments in sensitive areas will be subject to lie detector and other integrity tests as part of his programme to root corruption out of the constabulary.

Earlier the Police Services Commission (PSC) confirmed that it was considering a proposal to have officers, from the rank of senior superintendent, served fixed-term contracts which will be renewable based on performance. The commissioners, however, said that no decision had been taken on this or any matter regarding the promotion of senior police officers.

“The implications of any such change would require extensive research, legal advice and consultations,” the PSC said as it sought to head off agitation in the constabulary over a report that a freeze had been placed on promotions.

The commissioners said that they have been exploring such ideas as part of efforts to introduce “greater transparency and accountability” to the police force.

Driving corrupt cops out of the force and getting most talented officers into senior positions have been central to on-going debates here over reform of the Jamaican constabulary and Forbes used a graduation ceremony for 119 new members to underscore his often-repeated aim to have a constabulary whose members the public can trust.

“I intend to introduce a series of integrity tests, including polygraph tests, for those wishing to be promoted to certain ranks within the Jamaica Constabulary Force or to be selected to sensitive areas that are prone to corruption,” Forbes said at the ceremony held at the Jamaica Police Academy in Twickenham Park, St Catherine.

Forbes also announced that software to prevent data being deleted from the traffic ticketing system was bought, in an attempt to foil the attempts of crooked traffic cops who accept bribes from motorists.

Said the police chief: “I have a message for every police officer whether you are taking a $500 bill not to write up a traffic ticket or you are engaged in more sophisticated methods of corruption: your time is up.

“We intend to remove every corrupt police officer, one by one, until a firm and equivocal message is sent that the JCF is not a comfortable place for rogue cops.”

Of the 119 officers who graduated yesterday, 84 will be deployed in the tourist resort areas of Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Negril.

The remaining 35 will be deployed in the parish of Clarendon, which according to a senior officer, is presently short of personnel.

The rookie cops were trained for eight months and is the third batch of recruits to have graduated this year, as part of an effort by the authorities to build the force back to its establishment of 8,000.

While Jamaica’s police have a reputation for corruption and extra-judicial killings, it is also recognised that they work in a very dangerous environment, where about 1,000 murders a year are reported. More than a dozen police, on average, are killed in Jamaica annually in the line of duty and several others are injured, usually shot.

Forbes warned the new officers of the dangers they faced and suggested that they should expect no demonstration of support and demand for justice received by alleged victims of police excesses.

“You walk with death every day when you do this job,” he said. “And when you die there are no demonstrations, no one to light a candle for you — no chorus of condemnation.”

The fear that Forbes expressed for the lives of those who wear the police uniform was also shared by families of some who graduated yesterday.

Kadian Davis, of Richmond, St Mary had a son of among the graduates. She is worried that he could become a victim of gunmen.

“I fear for him because I know it is a dangerous job,” Davis told the Observer.

But mostly the families were proud. Many came from far to share the afternoon with sons and daughters and extended family.

Rodland Thomas came from Litchfield, Trelawny to share the occasion with his son, Alwayne — but he didn’t come alone. He brought 28 others.

“It feels good,” Thomas said. “This is my son’s moment. Is 29 of us come here and we have to support him.”

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