Jamaica Police Force Only Training Vaccinated Recruits

by Amelia Robinson

The Jamaica Constabulary Force, JCF, says it is important that only vaccinated new recruits undergo training to prevent further spread of the Coronavirus, Senior communications strategist of the JCF, Dennis Brooks has confirmed in  an interview with the Jamaica Observer.`

According to Brooks, to prevent continuous disruption, the JCF has made the decision, after seeking legal and medical council, that the best option is to continue the training of vaccinated individuals until Jamaica reaches a state of herd immunity.

The scientific advice of the JCF’s medical services according to Brooks dictates three options: cancellation of all training, facilitating all training virtually, or only training those individuals who are vaccinated.

“Given the crime and security realities, option one cannot be entertained. Option two…that’s not a thing. With the nature of police work, you need to be up in each other’s space in close quarters, learning how to do this or that. If we’re going to keep on training new members during the pandemic, it is to train them if they are vaccinated,” said Brooks.

“We’ve had to pause training as a precautionary measure because there’s been a small outbreak, and then you have the delay in the start of training that makes you lose many weeks of training because of the quarantine period that they have to be waiting out,” Brooks further added.

Brooks further explained that  prior to the pandemic, the JCF had a mandate to significantly increase its membership by 1,500 per year due to the attrition  level each year.

“We have brought on more facilities to train more people at the same time. So, we have Tranquillity Bay, we have National Police College of Jamaica in Twickenham Park, and we have Harman Barracks. Since the pandemic, the numbers that we expected to be able to increase the force by, we’ve not been able to meet that,” Brooks said, as he noted that Tranquillity Bay has since become a quarantine facility.

“At one point, we had to pause recruitment in order to reassess how the JCF recruits in the pandemic. There are other islands in the Caribbean who would’ve just completely stopped, because it’s next to impossible. We have found ways to try to continue in the midst of a pandemic,” Brooks stated.

He underscored that the JCF has lost many weeks and months of training as a result of having to stop because of COVID-19 outbreaks.

However, one applicant who has been training for five months, feels he has been dealt an unfair hand as it has been his dream to become a police officer, but he isn’t in favor of the vaccine.

According to the force applicant he was quarantined at Tranquillity Bay for six weeks until he was transferred to Twickenham Park on March 10.

“This is a dream being shattered right before my eyes. However, I am content nonetheless. I have no malice or any grudge against the JCF; I can just say that better days are ahead for me. I won’t fight them, I will just work with it. I am still training as a force applicant. I’ve been here since January 30, 2021. It was communicated directly to me, by the director of training over here, that if I do not state that I will take the vaccine by Thursday midnight, I’ll be home Friday morning,” the recruit claimed last Thursday.

Last Friday, the applicant told the Jamaica Observer that he left the training camp after maintaining that he wouldn’t get vaccinated.

“I am on my way off the campus. Today is my day of departure. I would’ve got my letter telling me to leave after 12 today,” he said on Friday afternoon.

“At no time before starting training we were told it was mandatory, and upon asking them, they kept on telling us it’s not mandatory. Yet, on Tuesday June 8, 2021 I was told that only vaccinated persons will be sworn on. My decision is that I won’t be taking it. That is my stance, as I would’ve already told them, and I have been reiterating it for some time. I don’t see why I should change it,” he lamented.

Brooks was unable to speak specifically to the claims by the applicant, however he underscored that taking the position to facilitate the training of vaccinated individuals at the moment has been permitted by the legal services division.

“For those persons who are saying, ‘I don’t feel comfortable being vaccinated,’ or ‘I don’t want to be vaccinated,’ what that means is that we have to take the position that we respect your right to not be vaccinated. However, respect our imperatives that we are facing as a constabulary and as a nation,” he said.

“What we are saying is, ‘We cannot train you face-to-face at this time in this context of a pandemic. When the nation has reached herd immunity, when the constabulary has reached herd immunity, then we can return you to training.”

Brooks further stated that the JCF will make arrangements for recruits to get vaccinated, if willing.

“We make provisions for persons to be vaccinated. When we were resuming training we constantly sought guidance from the medical services branch of the JCF. They would have advised us. When you come in initially you’re a force applicant and then you become a trainee constable. During that process, provisions have been made for persons to be vaccinated and, overwhelmingly, people have taken up that option,” Brooks commented.

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