The major police force is the JCF, which was established in 1867
shortly after the institution of crown colony government. Generally
viewed as poorly trained, underpaid, and overburdened, the JCF
generated the country's most persistent human rights concerns in
the 1980s. Police auxiliary reserve units included the 1,500-member
Island Special Constabulary Force (ISCF), which assisted the JCF in
large operations; the 1,700-member Special District Constables, who
served as local police in smaller localities when called on to
assist the JCF or ISCF; Police Mobile Reserve Division (PMRD),
whose duties included controlling or suppressing civil
disturbances, providing security for parades and rallies, and
conducting raids related to marijuana and the Firearms Act; Parish
Special Constables, who served in the regular force on special
occasions; and Authorized Persons, with limited police powers.
Larger cities had municipal police forces, but their functions were
restricted to enforcing municipal regulations and guarding
municipal property. A senior superintendent of police headed the
JCF's narcotics unit, which has been the lead agency for combatting
drug trafficking since 1974.
The JCF was reorganized in 1984. At that time, a Police Staff
College was created to provide higher training and education. The
school was located at Fort Charles near Port Royal at the end of
the Palisades Peninsula. New recruits, called cadets, were required
to take written, oral, and medical tests before being admitted to
the school. They received an eighteen-week basic course in police
law, self-defense, first aid, and drill. Usually, they were sent to
a rural post for ten months of on-the-job training and returned to
the school for a six-week senior recruit course before becoming
constables. More advanced training was provided for constables,
corporals, and sergeants in such areas as pathology, sociology, and
political science. Completion of the advanced courses was required
before being considered for promotion to a higher rank. Some
officers and men received advanced training in other countries.
In 1986 the JCF had an authorized strength of 6,317 and an
actual strength of 5,601, which was 3.9 percent below that of 1985.
This figure represented a ratio of police to population of about 1
to 400. Despite an attrition rate in 1986 of 6.1 percent, the
recruitment rate was 7.5 percent below that of 1985. The continuing
decline in the number of recruits was attributed largely to
attempts by the JCF high command to attract a higher level of
recruits by raising educational and mental aptitude criteria. In
1985 only 181 of 5,418 applicants were accepted for training.
Applicants had to meet height, age, and literacy requirements, as
well as produce a certificate of character from a magistrate or
person of similar standing and pass a medical examination.
Constables were enrolled for five years, and spent the first six
months in a probationary capacity. Reasons for the JCF's failure to
attract qualified individuals included relatively low salaries, the
high levels of risk facing the police, and significant reductions
in the size of the police cadet corps, a major supplier of recruits
in previous years.
In late 1987, the JCF comprised four branches: Administration,
Services, Security, and Special Operations. Each was commanded by
an assistant commissioner, with the exception of the Security
Branch, which was headed by a deputy commissioner. In addition to
providing physical security to visiting dignitaries, the Special
Operations Branch was responsible for the Criminal Investigation
Department; Police Marine Division (in charge of harbor patrol),
located in Newport; and the PMRD, which was quartered at Harman
Barracks, and made up of a Mounted Troop, the Patrol Section,
Traffic Department (including the Radio Patrol Division), and the
Women Police. Under a December 1984 reorganization, the Special
Operations Branch also was tasked to combat hardcore criminal
groups and individuals who target the security forces.
The JCF's Security Branch handled immigration and passport
services. The Police Marine Division's harbor police operated in
Kingston Harbour and a few other seaports, enforcing harbor
regulations and carrying out rescues, as well as fighting crime on
the waterfront. Customs Protective Officers (CPOs) checked the
documents of goods going in or out of the customs areas at Kingston
Harbour, called Western Terminals, and at the two international
Under the Suppression of Crime (Special Provisions) Act, in
effect since 1974, the JDF was authorized to conduct joint
operations with the JCF in order to maintain the peace. The Act
permitted the JDF to cordon off any area on the island while police
conducted house-to-house searches within those areas without
warrants. Police forces relied on the Act extensively, and
detention of suspects "reasonably" suspected of having committed a
crime occurred regularly without a warrant, particularly in poor
neighborhoods. Almost all detainees were released eventually
without being charged.
Until the 1970s, the police generally had a good reputation and
were supported by the mass media and the middle and upper classes.
The rural peasant and urban lower classes, however, generally
mistrusted the police. Public esteem for police morality was
lowered in the 1970s by increased newspaper reportage of
allegations of police improprieties and brutality. An Americas
Watch report documented an average of 217 police killings a year
from 1979 to 1986, representing one-half of the country's total
killings. The Jamaica Council of Human Rights reported that police
killed 289 persons in 1984. Adverse public opinion resulting from
charges of human rights abuses by the police prompted Seaga to
reshuffle his cabinet on October 17, 1986. In the process, Winston
Spaulding was dropped as minister of national security and justice.
The public also increasingly questioned police competence as a
result of the growing number of unsolved crimes in the country,
particularly those involving members of political parties.
Data as of November 1987