From contributor Conrad Tucker.
Members of JCF Must be Respected.
Thirty years ago, I migrated from Jamaica to Toronto, Canada, it was the first time I left the shores of Jamaica I was awestruck by the diversity of the city.
I was also taken aback by the vibrancy of the black community, and the impact and contributions they have made to this remarkable city, prior to my arrival here.
Having said that, the black community was a favourite target for Toronto predominantly white police service. We felt that we were targeted because of who we were, and several young black men were shot and killed by the police, mostly under questionable circumstances.
A lot has changed since 1988, Toronto has grown exponentially in almost every facet , it’s now the fourth largest city in the North America and is considered the most diverse city on the planet.
The majority of the members of the police service are still white, which doesn’t truly reflect our diversity. However, on April 17, 2015, history was made when Mark Saunders a black man of Jamaican lineage was appointed the first black police chief in the services’ 181 year history.
Saunders who was born in England, is a veteran of the service and has served in numerous capacities over his thirty plus years.
We as a people in this city have come a long way, but I never envision that in my lifetime I would see a black police chief in Toronto.
We have black politicians, but those folks are elected by the people, the chief on the other hand, is selected by the police services board. And although the board’s ethnic makeup is diverse, I was still not expecting the appointment of a black chief. To see that come to fruition was a major development for blacks in this city and a very proud moment for our community.
Toronto Police Service Transformation Since then, Toronto Police Service has undergone a major transformation to make the service more lean. The police board and the mayor want the service to change with the times, and so, they believe they can’t continue with status quo.
Among other things, the board is a proponent of using less personnel and relying more on technology to carry out their duties.
One of their primary concerns is the annual operating budget, which has grown exponentially to $M1005.1, in 2017.
Most of the money is paid in salary, so a strategy to shrink the budget evolved, they have decided not hire any new officers in 2017.
Backed by the police union, members of the service have become disgruntled and began complaining that they are short staffed and over-worked. The officers are arguing that their lives are at risk, and the public is underserved.
They have been campaigning through the media that their concerns have fallen on deaf ears, and have decided to have a no-confidence vote against Chief Saunders. This vote is symbolic, and will not remove Saunders as Chief. But doing this will ensure that their concerns will be addressed more expeditiously.
Should Members of the JCF Do Likewise? Toronto Police Service is modern, equipped with some of the best technology, the officer are well paid with an excellent pension, they worked in a law-abiding society and operate independently of any political interference. On the other side of the spectrum, members of the JCF, worked in squalid conditions, hardly any modern technology, are grossly underpaid, gets a measly pension upon retirement and have to police some of the most vicious people on the planet, who have no regards for the rules of law.
And yet, they still perform their duties under these conditions.
I think it’s time for members of the JCF to have a stronger voice to stand up to the politicians and demand better pay, better working conditions, which includes reliable service vehicles and better barracks to sleep in.
Recently, I received a video on WhatsApp, showing a rooster crowing in rafters of in the barrack room of a police station. The officer who made the video, made light of the fact they he was trying to get some rest and was awaken by the crowing rooster.
It’s shameful to think that police officers are treated like this by the government, and when they failed they are mercilessly criticized, meanwhile they are the ones risking their lives to protect those of their critics.
Look at the uphill battle the Jamaica Police Federation is fighting for its member for a long overdue salary increase. I converted the Jamaica dollar to Canadian and U.S. currencies and what they are paying police officers in Jamaica is an insult, literally a fiasco. Yet, the public demand so much of them, when they are ill-equipped to carry out their duties. They work in sub-human conditions, abused by the public and is a scapegoat for corruption in Jamaica.
They even passed a legislation which threatens to send members to prison if they leave without giving six months notice. These draconian measures will discourage smart people from joining the force and encourage the exodus of personnel who realize that being a cop in Jamaica isn’t worth it.
Compared to their Jamaican counterpart, Toronto police officers are working in luxury, relatively speaking.
Nevertheless, they have launched a no-confidence vote against their chief. Meanwhile, my former colleagues are threatened with imprisonment if they leave the force without proper notification. If only these Toronto cops come to their senses and realize how good they have it.
Look at the dichotomy, the poor Jamaican cops who are in the crosshairs of Jamaican gunmen are not allowed to leave the force on their own volition and cops here in Toronto who seemingly have everything are whining and complaining about their working conditions while being handsomely compensated.
The time has come for some constitutional challenges for the rights of police officers in Jamaica, who are controlled by senseless laws and regulations. Some of these laws are antiquated, and do not reflect the modern times we are living in.
They should be allowed to strike or protest just like any other employee of the government. Although symbolic, the Jamaican police should emulate their Toronto counterpart and have a no-confidence vote against The Minister of National Security, whose performance has been abysmal. His poor management of the crime situation in Jamaica and his blatant attack on former commissioner Quallo are strong evidence of his failures.
Enough is enough.