Cops say vaccination before promotion unfair, unjust

A decision by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) to promote some of its members on the condition that they accept the COVID-19 vaccine has created tension among rank-and-file members, several of whom are threatening to walk off the job.

The Jamaica Observer first reported on Tuesday that the JCF had informed its members “as a matter of urgency” that all candidates shortlisted for promotional training need to be vaccinated or they “will be replaced on the programme by other members who have been”.

The JCF further said arrangements were being made to have any impacted member duly vaccinated.

The Observer interviewed several members of the force who have all argued that the announcement was “unfair” and an “injustice” to themselves and other colleagues who have been working “tirelessly” to move up the ranks.

The lawmen, however, asked not to be identified out of fear of being victimised.

“Persons are disgruntled. They are feeling victimised. Coming from a period where promotions would have been withheld and to be at a juncture like this where the procedure for promotion would have been revisited and several individuals who are deserving of such promotions would have been submitted based on their hard work, their conduct and your years of service, only to be told that a voluntary process as vaccination is going to deter your promotion is disheartening.

“Several constables would have expressed their intent to resign from the organisation if this is the way forward. This is modern-day bullyism and slavery. That’s the general feeling from the membership in and around where I work,” one lawman said on Tuesday when he spoke to the Observer.

“This is really unfair,” he fumed.

In a statement to its members on Tuesday, the Jamaica Police Federation said that it had not met with the high command on the matter.

“The central committee of the Jamaica Police Federation convened a meeting on Monday, May 3, 2021 to discuss several pertinent matters.

“We later observed the message about the mandatory requirement for vaccination for candidates for the promotional training. The relevant contact was made and it was confirmed that this information is indeed correct.

“We have never been a part of any discussion with the high command regarding the vaccination as a prerequisite for promotion. It is extremely unfortunate that this approach has been taken without our input or guidance from the committee. This matter will be pursued and further communication will be made in this regard,” the statement read.

The Observer has since learnt that both the federation and high command met via Zoom yesterday.

“Mi a go see what the federation do ’bout this,” another cop, who has expressed outrage about the announcement, said.

“This vaccine thing a go start determine if people get food or not, enuh. Mi nuh think this fair and federation like them a go sit aside and make them do it,” the policeman, who is a constable, said.

His colleague, in a terse response to the Observer, said he will not be taking the vaccine.

“This is a free and democratic country. Where promotion is concerned I’m utterly against it [vaccine],” he said, at the same time insisting that globally, people have had adverse reactions to the vaccine.

“A promotion does not come before your health. So I’m 120 per cent against it,” the cop said.

But in an interview with the Observer yesterday, Dennis Brooks, the JCF’s senior communication strategist, said the matter was a “misunderstanding”.

Brooks said that the mandatory vaccination protocol is tied to a corporal and sergeant development training programme currently underway and not to promotions in general throughout the force.

Thirty-two members are a part of the programme.

He said the decision was taken on the advice of the force’s medical team.

He explained that a component of the programme requires face-to-face training. As a result, it is being advised that participants take the jab to protect themselves and others from COVID-19.

Brooks added that the process surrounding promotions within the force had been a vexed one for some time, triggering a review along with new policies.

He said there are several avenues for promotion and that this training programme is one.

“We do not disturb people’s preferences. You have a right of refusal of a vaccine. However, your right of a refusal comes with implications for how you are deployed.

“Our first mandate is to protect our members. We respect your free will; however, in designing these training programmes it is imperative that we follow the science,” Brooks said.

“We’ve made it clear that if there are some people who don’t want to take the vaccine, then you need to explore some of our other channels of promotion,” he added.

He mentioned, too, that following a meeting with the high command and the federation, the two groups are on the same page.

Meanwhile, he urged lawmen to “listen to the legitimate science and take the vaccine”.

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