Cops for HIRE

Of­fi­cers moon­light­ing to sup­ple­ment mea­gre salary

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Corey Robinson Staff Re­porter

COUNT­LESS JA­MAICAN police of­fi­cers are break­ing the law, moon­light­ing at the ex­pense of their le­git­i­mate jobs to serve and pro­tect, in an at­tempt to aug­ment what they de­scribe as “mea­gre” salaries. Alarm­ingly, many are even us­ing their police-is­sued ser­vice weapons to carry out their il­le­git­i­mate busi­nesses. Moon­light­ing or ‘hus­tling’ (as it is of­ten re­ferred to) is where some law­men have a side job or per­sonal busi­ness out­side of their reg­u­lar du­ties. This can range from body­guard ser­vices, es­corts, bounc­ers at night­clubs, guard­ing con­struc­tion sites, and se­cu­rity de­tail for events and high-pro­file clients. Ad­di­tion­ally, sev­eral police of­fi­cers are known to op­er­ate route and char­tered taxis and buses, are pro­mot­ers for en­ter­tain­ment events, as well as pro­pri­etors of sev­eral busi­nesses.

MUST BE AP­PROVED

Ac­cord­ing to the im­ple­mented poli­cies of the Ja­maica Con­stab­u­lary Force (JCF), police of­fi­cers are al­lowed, to a lim­ited ex­tent, to en­gage in cer­tain jobs while off duty; how­ever, it should be reg­u­lar polic­ing func­tions, and must be ap­proved by the lead­er­ship of the force. In other words, any con­trac­tual ar­range­ment for ser­vice needed by any mem­ber of the JCF must be be­tween the Govern­ment of Ja­maica and the client; and not a per­sonal ar­range­ment with an in­di­vid­ual of­fi­cer and the client. Ac­cord­ing to the JCF’s anti-cor­rup­tion pol­icy, any pri­vate ar­range­ment out­side of the al­lowed pro­ce­dure would be con­sid­ered a breach. Yet, while the force al­lows police

of­fi­cers to do ‘lim­ited ex­tra’ du­ties, The Sun­day Gleaner un­der­stands that sev­eral mem­bers of the JCF are flout­ing those reg­u­la­tions, com­plain­ing that the guide­lines limit the amount of money that can be made if they do busi­ness di­rectly.

In fact, this has been an on­go­ing is­sue within the force for quite some time, and the high com­mand has tried un­suc­cess­fully to stem it.

Of­fi­cers are adamant that they are forced to hus­tle be­cause they are not paid enough to sur­vive.

“We have to moon­light. There is no doubt about it. The reg­u­lar uni­formed police of­fi­cer don’t get cer­tain ben­e­fits and they have to make up,” said one police cor­po­ral who spends sev­eral nights moon­light­ing for ad­di­tional in­come at an es­tab­lish­ment in Kingston.

“If a po­lice­man don’t moon­light, his only other op­tion is to ‘cut’ (take bribes) when he is on duty, and nuff man get in trou­ble, ar­rested and lose them work for that, so it risky,” he con­tin­ued.

“The av­er­age po­lice­man does not get much for salary; and even if you are a se­nior of­fi­cer, you don’t get much ben­e­fits. So you will have per­sons, even in spe­cialised ar­eas, who still do their lit­tle moon­light­ing to make up.”

He added, “If you are a young con­sta­ble and you don’t have much re­spon­si­bil­ity like fam­ily, mort­gage to pay and so on, then you can make your way with a dis­ci­plined bud­get. But when you have kids and you are the only bread­win­ner, it is go­ing to come down to one of the two evils.”

Sev­eral Caribbean coun­tries, Do­minica among the lat­est, have pro­hib­ited their police of­fi­cers from moon­light­ing, not­ing that it raises se­ri­ous con­cerns if not struc­tured and reg­u­larised.

STRONG WARNING

If a po­lice­man don’t moon­light, his only other op­tion is to ‘cut’ (take bribes) when he is on duty, and nuff man get in trou­ble, ar­rested and lose them work for that, so it risky

In 2011, Ja­maica’s then police com­mis­sioner, Owen Elling­ton, is­sued strong warning to mem­bers of the police force in a Force Or­ders, not­ing that sev­eral in­ci­dents that at­tracted na­tional at­ten­tion at the time in­volved mem­bers of the con­stab­u­lary and its aux­il­iaries who en­gage in ex­tra-work ar­range­ments.

“It has been noted from a num­ber of re­cent in­ci­dents, which have at­tracted na­tional at­ten­tion, that mem­bers of the (force) and its aux­il­iaries are en­gag­ing in ex­tra-work ar­range­ments such as body­guards, driv­ing of pub­lic-pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles, and also as pro­mot­ers/stake­hold­ers/par­tic­i­pants in dances and stage shows where breaches of the law are be­ing com­mit­ted. These ac­tiv­i­ties are not con­sis­tent with the pol­icy guide­lines,” Elling­ton said at the time.

The then com­mis­sioner’s pro­nounce­ments fol­lowed the shoot­ing death of Con­roy Ed­wards, an en­tourage mem­ber of dance­hall en­ter­tainer David Brooks, more pop­u­larly called Mavado. Ed­wards died in hos­pi­tal af­ter he was shot mul­ti­ple times by a po­lice­man out­side a New Kingston night­club.

Last week, Deputy Police Com­mis­sioner Clif­ford Blake ex­plained to The Sun­day Gleaner that, “It’s called ex­tra work, and that is why we cre­ated a pol­icy for it. It has to be put un­der some pol­icy con­trol. You do not want of­fi­cers spend­ing more time do­ing ex­tra work than their sub­stan­tive force du­ties.”

Ac­cord­ing to Blake, ci­ti­zens wish­ing to em­ploy police of­fi­cers for ex­tra work must con­tact the di­vi­sional com­man­ders, who will then sub­mit an ap­pli­ca­tion to the Op­er­a­tions Branch for ap­proval. Once it is ap­proved and the of­fi­cer is as­signed the ex­tra duty, pay­ment is col­lected and dis­trib­uted to the in­di­vid­ual via his reg­u­lar salary.

As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner of Police As­san Thomp­son, who has pro­cessed many such ap­pli­ca­tions dur­ing his three-year ten­ure at the Op­er­a­tion Branch, which ended in Jan­uary this year, said only off-duty of­fi­cers are al­lowed to take on ex­tra work.

“They have to be off duty or if they are not work­ing on a week­end, or so on. The dif­fer­ence with the ex­tra work is that it is a pol­icy thing; any­thing else would be moon­light­ing, as it was be­fore,” said Thomp­son, adding that ex­tra duty usually en­tails guard­ing an event, and not nec­es­sar­ily pri­vate-es­cort du­ties.

“When the ap­pli­ca­tion comes to us (op­er­a­tions), the di­vi­sional com­man­ders would have had to en­sure that the of­fi­cer is not ros­tered for any sta­tion guard, pa­trol or raids. All of that would have to be val­i­dated with us be­fore we grant the re­quest,” con­tin­ued Thomp­son, adding that the process also in­cludes back­ground and fi­nan­cial checks on the pro­moter.

OF­FI­CIAL RE­QUESTS FEW

How­ever, he con­ceded that those of­fi­cial re­quests are usually few, and mostly come from pro­mot­ers of the more es­tab­lished an­nual en­ter­tain­ment events.

Mean­while, the cops in­ter­viewed by this news­pa­per said they are paid less than $1,000 an hour through the of­fi­cial chan­nel. On the other hand, if they seek out their own busi­ness and per­son­ally ne­go­ti­ate their own price, they can earn up to 10 times more.

One cop, who works in a spe­cialised out­fit, re­called an in­stance when he and two col­leagues were paid $10,000 each just to help con­trol un­ruly pa­trons fight­ing to get into a St An­drew party.

“We weren’t even con­tracted to work that time. We just got a call about a dis­tur­bance at en­trance,” said the of­fi­cer. “They def­i­nitely needed more police so they told us to name our price.

“We told them that we couldn’t pro­vide static se­cu­rity be­cause we were on pa­trol, but that we would fo­cus on this area. We tell them we want $30,000 and them flick that out eas­ily.”

The po­lice­men said clients of­ten pre­fer to go di­rectly to the cop they wish to hire for a ser­vice.

“Most times, they know the po­lice­man per­son­ally and he is the per­son they want to hire. They know that you will work with them, no mat­ter what, and they can count on you to do what they want you to do, even see cer­tain things and make it slide,” said one cop.

“They can’t guar­an­tee that with a po­lice­man they don’t know,” con­tin­ued the po­lice­man, re­call­ing an­other in­stance where he re­luc­tantly al­lowed one pro­moter to beat a staff mem­ber mer­ci­lessly and did not in­ter­vene.

The of­fi­cer shared that un­less the Govern­ment recog­nise that po­lice­men and women are putting their lives on the line ev­ery day to pro­tect and serve the pub­lic and de­serve bet­ter wages, they will al­ways have to con­tend with hus­tling on the job.

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