Jamaica: Strategy to deal with ‘lef or write’ coming, says police commissioner

Antony Anderson

(Jamaica Observer) Nine months after assuming the role of commissioner of police, Major General Antony Anderson is training his focus on the constabulary’s corrupt members.

Anderson, who was speaking at yesterday’s Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange at the newspaper’s head office in Kingston, said for the next few months special attention will be given to professional standards, including anti-corruption strategies and the issue of accountability within the force.

“The truth is that we have to build back that, because what used to be the anti-corruption branch of the force was removed and put at MOCA (Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency). Now, as MOCA becomes a separate entity, we have to have enough anti-corruption capacity to deal with most things. MOCA will largely be dealing with national and, perhaps, high-level [matters] within the force and wider public sector type of corruption. We have to deal with ‘lef and write’,” Anderson told reporters and editors.

‘Lef or write’ is the term used to describe the act in which motorists are given the option of paying police officers on the spot to avoid being ticketed for a traffic offence or choosing for that officer to write the ticket.

“We have a strategy. It was used in the past, and we will roll it out [again] and as you see it roll out more will come,” he said.

General Anderson explained that the first problem he had to tackle was the murder rate.

“When you come to this job your first call or your first responsibility is to ensure that the murder rate is trending in the right direction, which is downwards. We should be having less and less violent crimes in Jamaica. So that obviously is the first thing that we do, because, clearly, if that doesn’t start to happen very quickly, then I would have the Observer to answer to, among others, about why it’s not happening,” he said.

“The second thing clearly that we had to do was put some significant effort into how we deal with public safety and traffic enforcement. So hence we had to develop the Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch by the end of August. So we had to go live [at] the end of August, even though we knew we wouldn’t be at full operating capability,” he added.

“The third thing is that we have to deal with the guns and gangs in a manner that’s sustainable. The next thing is anti-corruption, professional standards, et cetera.

“They don’t wait on each other, but the truth is that the amount of focus required and the teams that look at these things have to actually shift and look, and we have to find assets and people to put in [to replace them]. As we rebuild anti-corruption and as we build professional standards we have to select those people very carefully; we have to vet them to go in that area, otherwise you don’t have credibility internally, much less externally. If the wrong people go into our anti-corruption area people will say it’s a joke,” the commissioner said.

General Anderson, in the same breath, said that, while corruption in the force has evolved over time, there has been a gradual decline.

“We are nowhere near where we need to be, but we are dealing with it,” he said.

He said that focus was also placed on the investigative capacity of the police as it relates to gangs, guns, murders and proceeds of crimes. As such, the police hierarchy has been working on putting together a task force that would focus on this area.

“It is what is obviously going to be the measure of policing… we had to ensure that though the quality of the investigations is going up, we had to look at how we use existing legislation, like [the] anti-gang legislation, to deal with not just individuals committing major crimes but all of the support systems around those individuals and all those people on the periphery whose efforts, although their efforts do not constitute a major crime, contribute significantly to the continuance of major crime,” the commissioner said.

 

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