MOCA always operates independently of the JCF, director says

Observer staff reporter

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

EXECUTIVE director of the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA), Colonel Desmond Edwards, has responded to a call for a split of MOCA from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), saying the two have always been separate entities.

Edwards, in an interview with the Jamaica Observer yesterday, said that the agency has, since its inception, operated independently.

“We are separated from the JCF. We have been operating independent of the JCF since we’ve been set up. So, while I have policemen on staff, they are on secondment to MOCA. So MOCA is not a division of the JCF. It’s a separate entity working with its own mandate. We are supported by the JCF, but we are separate. I don’t report to the commissioner of police,” Edwards said.

He added that severing all ties with the JCF “was always a concept” and made reference to the MOCA legislation which is being enacted for the full separation.

“But the point I’m making is that we were always a separate entity. Even though we had policemen on staff we were always independent in how we did our business,” the army man said.

Debate on legislation to establish an independent body to fight organised crime in Jamaica, including detecting and investigating crime kingpins and people who facilitate their activities, started last October in the House of Representatives.

Clause 6 of the Act outlines the functions of the agency. In addition to investigative and prosecutorial duties related to serious crimes, it will also receive complaints in relation to alleged or suspected acts involving serious crime; gather, store, process, analyse and disseminate information that is relevant to activities to combat serious crime; and carry out counter-terrorism functions as may be conferred on the agency by the minister.

Edwards, too, said that the legislation needs to be passed to make the body fully independent of JCF staff and added that JCF staff now will become fully MOCA staff.

Asked about the assertion made by head of the Police Civilian Oversight Authority Professor Anthony Harriott in yesterday’s Gleaner that the JCF is “toxic” Edwards said that it is no secret that some members of the country’s crime-fighting unit are corrupt.

“I believe there are corrupt police officers. That is no secret that we’ve had operations where we’ve arrested and charged people. So yes, there are people in the organisation who are corrupt. I wouldn’t broad brush the entire organisation. There are very conscious individuals who work there,” he noted.

Edwards also mentioned that MOCA’s operations have never been compromised because of having JCF members on staff.

The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) yesterday said that it supports the call by Harriott for the separation of MOCA from the JCF.

In a news release, the PSOJ said that Harriott’s argument is based on the correct observation that there is too much structurally wrong with the JCF, and a lack of accountability and effective management within the JCF.

“While we are in full support of this observation, we at the PSOJ would have hoped that more of these calls would have been made years ago when it was obvious that we were heading to the level of lawlessness that permeates our society.

“We encourage calls like these to be made, not only by POCA, but all other well-thinking stakeholders in the society. All those who are in the position of authority and responsibility, which should contribute to the safety and order of the society, must also speak out about these issues. As a country, we cannot afford to have the responsible authorities remain silent on these issues they have responsibility for.

“The PSOJ, therefore, commends Professor Harriott for this honest statement, and believes that if we adopt this attitude then we can establish proper accountability and order in the society,” the release said.

In the meantime, Opposition Spokesman on National Security Fitz Jackson told the Observer that the People’s National Party (PNP) fully supports a separate MOCA. According to Jackson, the PNP has long been saying that the agency needs to be separated. He added that legislation has long been on the table and that its passing should be timely.

Minister of National Security Robert Montague could not be reached for a comment. Calls and messages to his phone were not answered.

However, he has, in the past, said that the two work well together.

Montague said during last year’s debate on the legislation that MOCA’s success is due largely to collaboration with law-enforcement agencies such as the JCF and Jamaica Defence Force and related entities such as the Financial Investigations Division, Jamaica Customs Department, Revenue Protection Division and Taxpayer Audit and Assessments Department.

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