Government Must Resolve Police Wage Dispute

Poorly paid and frustrated officers are less likely to be effective at crime fighting or compliant with human rights

Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ) supports the favorable and speedy resolution of the police wage negotiations. We support the request being made by rank and file police for improved pay and working conditions. The reasons for providing these are clear and strong. Yet, successive governments have not meaningfully addressed them. Improving officer welfare, of which wages are a part, improves the police’s capacity to provide national security and is the right thing to do.

The police, like everyone, deserve to enjoy an adequate standard of living. This includes livable and fair wages and working conditions. If we are to demand the accountability and professionalism of police that the country deserves, then we must also demand that government reasonably provide for their welfare. Poorly paid and frustrated officers are less likely to be effective at crime fighting or compliant with human rights.

Present wages and working conditions inadequate for modern, professional policing.

The present wage offer does not keep pace with the costs of providing an adequate standard of living in 2017. This makes it difficult for the Police Force to attract and retain the most competent and qualified persons to serve as police officers. Jamaica’s high crime situation requires that we keep the brightest and best, not deter them. The high level of attrition within the Police Force is a function of the low compensation, among other factors, and is unlikely to abate until wages and working conditions improve.

Low wages also create an environment for corruption, exposing police to the daily seduction of bribes. Bribes will always remain attractive so long as officers are underpaid. Improving police wages will reduce this incentive. It makes sense.

Moreover, it will help address the unfair disparities between the compensation of rank and file officers and senior police. It is unfair to offer Constables, Corporals and Sergeants so little when, at the top of the command chain, Assistant and Deputy Commissioners enjoy very generous salaries and perks, running in each case into several millions of dollars.

JFJ appreciates the Government’s financial limitations. Successive governments have maintained a 7.5 percent surplus required by its agreements with the IMF by cutting back expenditure (in real terms) on some social services. However, this cannot be kept up indefinitely without seriously compromising people’s welfare. The time has come, in JFJ’s view, for some easing of the burden on those faithfully meeting essential social needs beneficial to all. This can be achieved by first reducing the well-documented waste and inefficiency within government and by ensuring that the burden is shared more equitably and fairly across society.

JFJ has always demanded police accountability. Now, part of that work involves demanding the fair and humane treatment of our police officers. Without this, efforts to fight crime and improve the professionalism of the force will be ineffective and unsustainable.