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Police launch probe into leaked ‘lockdown plans’ memo


THE police have launched an investigation to determine who leaked an internal memo that references plans for a lockdown of the country.

Senior Superintendent Stephanie Lindsay, who heads the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s communications unit, confirmed yesterday that the document was real but stressed that it should not be interpreted as a signal that the country would be placed on lockdown.

“Based on questions that have been asked of us, it would appear that persons are interpreting this document to be a shutdown of the country. Of course, we have no such information and that is not the jurisdiction of the Jamaica Constabulary Force. Our duty is to respond to the orders when they come, and to support them…It’s very unfortunate that the document got out, which is the subject of an internal query,” she said in an audio file sent to the media.

Among those to whom the memo was addressed were senior officers code-named SSP Fox, SP Echo and SP Delta. It was from the assistant commissioner of police in charge of Area Two Headquarters. Referencing an attachment from the deputy commissioner of police in charge of strategic operations, the memo asked for strict compliance to orders outlined in an attachment, which were not made public. “Given the current state of affairs with the…COVID-19 pandemic, it is highly likely that an islandwide lockdown could be hastily enforced,” the memo said. “As a prerequisite, the development of a divisional lockdown plan is of paramount importance and the deputy commissioner’s directive, which highlights the critical factors to be considered, is explicit.”

The document, without the referenced attachment, began making the rounds on social media early yesterday morning, fuelling speculation that the Government would announce a lockdown in response to this week’s sharp rise in the number of confirmed cases of the COVID-19 disease. Many supermarkets had long lines outside as customers moved to stock up in case their movement is restricted in the coming days. There have been persistent rumours of a lockdown for weeks, but the Government has stressed the need to balance healthy economic activity with citizens’ health.

On Thursday, PNP caretaker for St Catherine East Central, Dr Winston De La Haye said during a digital press conference that the Opposition People’s National Party was calling for a controlled lockdown of the country. Meanwhile, Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica President Keith Duncan said a Government lockdown would have the influential lobby group’s support if it were in the country’s best interests.

But yesterday SSP Lindsay explained that the memo was simply a part of the JCF’s strategic planning. It would be irresponsible, she said for the JCF not to be at the planning phase, as it plays a critical role in the battle against COVID-19.

“[The memo] was intended for the sole purpose of advising our divisional commanders to prepare their response plan in the event that we see a similar outbreak across the island to what happened in St Catherine recently,” she explained. A cluster of 52 cases of COVID-19 was confirmed at a call centre in Portmore, St Catherine, earlier this week. “There is not one large organisation in this country where the senior managers are not huddling and planning for any eventualities as a result of COVID-19,” SSP Lindsay added. “So it would be irresponsible of us as the Jamaica Constabulary Force, given our critical role as first responders, at this stage not to be planning our strategies and implementing our response plan. So that’s exactly what we’re doing because we play a very critical role in supporting the other agencies in preventing the spread of COVID-19 across the country.”

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