Horace Chang | Thrust to digitalise the police force |

The 21st century has seen the emergence of powerful technological advancements. The rapid development of major technologies such as computer technology, communication technology, and geospatial technology, has made a number of solutions available to law-enforcement departments. These and other solutions are aimed at not just enhancing operational efficiency, but delivering greater levels of policing services and improving operational outcomes.

As the leadership of the police force carries out the Government’s mandate of aggressively transforming the force to deal effectively with current and emerging issues, the use of technology is seen as a critical force multiplier.

INSTITUTIONALISING TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT

For the first time in the history of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), a Technology Branch was established in 2019, with a mandate of institutionalising the technological development of the force and directing it into the global digital era.

Over the past four years, the Ministry of National Security in collaboration with the branch has coordinated and facilitated the Government’s investment in a number of technology projects. The team of highly skilled, technical professionals at the branch have worked assiduously to ensure the identification, acquisition and adoption of various technologies to support key policing activities and practices.

GEOSPATIAL ANALYSIS AND MONITORING

The adoption of geospatial technology such as geographic information system has allowed the police to map and analyse crime data in order to generate actionable insights. This has enabled the executive management as well as operational commanders of the force to make smarter and more data-driven decisions. The technology, which is now being widely employed across the force, can be leveraged to identify crime hotspots and help to guide the strategic deployment of resources through the use of dashboards.

The Amber Connect Fleet Management System has been deployed across the JCF’s fleet and provides real-time, location data. This real-time monitoring of the fleet has resulted in improved driver behaviour and improved response to citizens’ calls for service. To date, just fewer than 1,000 service vehicles are being tracked on the system.

INCIDENT-CAPTURE AND ENFORCEMENT

In terms of incident-capture and enforcement, the force has adopted three major technological solutions. The first is the National Surveillance Programme, popularly known as “JamaicaEye”. At present, the rapid expansion of the current network with over 850 CCTV cameras is being actively pursued, as the programme is proving to be a very vital resource for law-enforcement officers.

Another solution is the Traffic Ticket Management System (TTMS) with its electronic ticketing and smart check capabilities. The new TTMS is not only more efficient in the issuing of tickets to motorists, but has helped to eliminate previous systems failures such as user-errors. Presently, additional end-user devices are being procured to expand its use islandwide. At the same time, work is proceeding within the other partner agencies of government, such as Tax Administration Jamaica and the Traffic Courts, to ensure the effectiveness of the TTMS, by bringing all the agencies in sync with each other.

Body-worn cameras represent a crucial incident-capture solution, which records the interactions of police officers with members of the public. Body-worn cameras not only improve accountability, but significantly impact the speed at which incidents can be investigated and disposed of. Currently, 400 cameras are deployed islandwide, with another 500 cameras expected to be in operation by the end of this fiscal year.

COMMUNICATIONS

Improved communications capacity is important to efficient and effective police operations. To this end, the police force has continued to boost its data and voice communication capabilities. This is being facilitated through the installation and configuration of microwave equipment at selected JCF facilities as well as upgrades to its P25 Radio Network islandwide.

CRIMINAL RECORDS OFFICE

Many Jamaicans, from all walks of life, have had to interface with the JCF’s Criminal Records Office (CRO) at some point in order to secure a police certificate. This vital piece of resource is facilitated through an automated identification system, which was recently upgraded to a Multimodal Biometric Identification System (MBIS) that not only incorporates fingerprints, but other biometrics such as facial identifier.

As the Government seeks to ensure that services which are delivered by state agencies meet a minimum quality standard, our use of technology solutions will play a significant role in this regard. In addition to deploying more end-user devices such as computer terminals at the CRO, the application and scheduling of appointments for police certificates are now available to the public online.

DIGITISATION OF POLICE RECORDS

The police force is transitioning from the use of its over 19 diaries and registers to a more efficient and reliable electronic database. Therefore, the need for the digitisation of its legacy data, which have accumulated over the years, becomes even more important. To this end, the JCF Legacy Data Project was launched with the view of supporting and complementing the deliverables to be achieved under the Security Strengthening Project (SSP).

SECURITY STRENGTHENING PROJECT

The SSP is a US$20-million, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loan-funded project which was negotiated and signed in 2017. The project was initiated in 2018, with the aim of putting in place a framework that supports data-driven, evidence-based, proactive policing. The overall goal of the project is to contribute to increasing the conviction rate of murders in Jamaica. This goal was designed to be achieved using a three-pronged approach which includes:

• Preventing and managing violent crimes;

• Improving investigative capabilities for violent crimes; and

• Promoting change management and communications

A Project Execution Unit led by Ms Karen Smythe-Witter, project director, was established to give leadership and direction to the project over its duration, and included a procurement specialist, a monitoring and evaluation specialist, a financial specialist and a project administrator.

Several consultants, critical to the project, were engaged on a short-term basis, all having had the relevant specialised skills, and remunerated at rates which were considered competitive. It is important to bear in mind that all salaries and consultancies were approved by the IDB in all instances. The major technical consultancies that were engaged included:

1. Technical Consultant – Connectivity Governance and Management Specialist

2. Technical Consultant – Case Management & Stations Record Management

3. Connectivity Consultant

4. Change Management Training Consultant

5. Change Management Training – Crucial Accountability

6. Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist

Critically, these consultants were never engaged to implement project activities, but rather, to review and advise on the activities that are to be carried out within the various beneficiary agencies, which in addition to the JCF includes: the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA), the Institute of Forensic Science and Legal Medicine (IFSLM), Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) and the Private Security Regulation Authority (PSRA).

Notwithstanding delays in project implementation, due mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic and procurement issues, the momentum has been restored and we have moved aggressively to settle these challenges. The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) is currently leading negotiations with the IDB towards a possible 18 to 24 months project extension in light of the two-year delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, steps have been taken to ensure that members of the JCF who are part of the technical team working with the SSP are given the requisite dedicated time in order to ensure their fulsome engagement with the project. So far, the results of these changes have been favourable, and the project is moving ahead.

To date, a key achievement of the project is the roll-out of the Case Management and Station Records Management Systems within the JCF. The first phase of the roll-out started in April this year, at the Harbour View Police Station in the Kingston Eastern Division. More than 20 additional police stations, across all parishes, will be onboarded over the coming months as part of this phase. The project also saw the acquisition of bullet imaging and engraving machines for the FLA, ballistics and DNA analysis equipment for the IFSLM, as well as the recent signing of a contract to supply a jail management system for the DCS.

These developments demonstrate the Government’s deep commitment to ensuring that our law-enforcement practitioners are given the necessary tools to operate more efficiently and effectively in this information technology age.

– Dr Horace Chang is Jamaica’s deputy prime minister, minister of national security and member of parliament for North West St James. Send feedback to [email protected]