Cops walk over vaccine requirement

The fallout from mandatory vaccine requirement pinned to promotions in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has begun and is set to spiral with a number of cops already tendering their resignations, the Jamaica Observer has learnt.

“Several resignations have already been tendered, members have reported to me. From one department alone I know that at least six resignations have been tendered, and members are reporting that several other members are resigning,” president of the Jamaica Police Federation Corporal Rohan James told the Observer yesterday.

“It is a reality. I would have warned of what is to come and what it is that people are not seeing on the horizon. Instead of us policing the Disaster Risk Management Act [DRMA] we want to police vaccinations, instead of focusing on our core functions and providing the necessary resources for our members to get ahead so that we can serve the populace,” Corporal James said.

Early last month cops who had been short-listed for promotional training were informed that they needed to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or risk being replaced on the programme by other members who have been vaccinated.

Correspondence sent to officers in the St Andrew North Police Division, for example, indicated that “arrangements are being made to have any impacted member duly vaccinated”.

The federation, in a swift response, had said the mandatory vaccination requirement as a prerequisite for promotion never formed part of any discussion with the high command and promptly made arrangements for a meeting with Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson.

Yesterday, Corporal James said the mandatory vaccination requirement was, in the mind of some officers, the final straw, given other long-standing grouses.

“Members are aggrieved to the point where they believe that the organisation doesn’t treat them well in respect of well-being and welfare, and it is left for them to look in alternative directions for a meaningful life,” he pointed out.

According to the police federation head, the resignations are spread across the country. “It is across the island, based on what it is I have been seeing,” he told the Observer.

In addition, Corporal James said the Government might find itself embroiled in legal battles over the issue.

“Indeed, it is for us to now meet with counsel. In fact, I can say to you that we are not impressed with the response from the commissioner’s office. Instead of responding to the issue we were sent myriad questions, and I can tell you that from what I garner I am not going to waste my time to respond. I am not in the business of creating mayhem or mischief; it is about effective representation. I will endeavour to instruct counsel accordingly,” he stated.

Earlier this year whispers emerged that rank-and-file members of the JCF were being pushed to sign a declaration of refusal of vaccine form which essentially indicated that they understood that declining could have administrative implications which could affect employment, advancement and treatment if the disease was contracted.

Speaking with the Observer then, Corporal James said he was, up to that time, unaware of any such requirement, while making it clear that any such move would be resisted.

“That draconian measure has not been placed over the membership’s head. Members are taking the vaccine, some are playing a wait-and-see game, and some are indecisive. The last figure that was quoted by the commissioner was 30 per cent take-up.

“I am very alert and assertive as to what is happening on the ground, making sure that anything that threatens the sovereignty of the membership I move swiftly to nip it in the bud,” he told the Observer at the time.

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