Vexed police federation wants mandatory vaccination fears clarified

THE Jamaica Police Federation, through its attorney, has written to Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson over allegations that rank and file members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) who are not vaccinated are being overlooked for promotions.

The disclosure was made by head of the federation, Rohan James, in an interview with the Jamaica Observer on Friday.

Jamaica Observer Online first reported on May 4 that the JCF had informed its members that promotion would be dependent on their vaccination status.

The police high command subsequently denied this, insisting that this was being done for a specific training programme.

But James, who said that letters were delivered to the offices of both the police commissioner and Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang on Thursday, argued that the disenfranchisement is widespread within the force.

James said that the issue was again being raised by him because of several complaints from the federation’s members. This follows a meeting earlier this month with the police high command at which it was believed both parties had come to an understanding on the matter.

“The issue has been taken back to them and we have since written, through counsel, to high command and we await their response. We are not for or against the vaccination. We are simply saying that members ought not to be [disenfranchised],” James told the Sunday Observer.

He said although the police high command has insisted that promotions on condition of vaccination are limited to a specific programme, this is not true.

“This is why the federation was compelled to write to high command and the minister of national security through counsel,” said James.

He added also that it has been brought to his attention that trainees are being asked about their status as it relates to vaccination.

“That’s one of the issues that has come to light, and several other areas where members have been asked to state their status concerning vaccination. So several other members are being affected once it is that they have been asked to engage in any training programme, and that is what caused us to engage counsel as to treat with the situation and protect our members,” James divulged.

Earlier this month, the Observer reported that several cops threatened to walk off the job if the JCF moved ahead with its plans to promote some of its members on the condition that they accept the COVID-19 vaccine.

The notice, which was sent on May 4, created tension among the JCF’s over 10,000 rank and file members.

“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 had said when he spoke at that time on the condition of anonymity.

In response, Dennis Brooks, the JCF’s senior communication strategist, had said that 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 that 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.

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