Wed | Oct 4, 2023

CEO: Lack of resources hampering Police Civilian Oversight Authority

Published:Thursday | March 16, 2023 | 1:13 AMSashana Small/Staff Reporter
Otarah Byfield-Nugent, CEO of the Police Civilian Oversight Authority.
Otarah Byfield-Nugent, CEO of the Police Civilian Oversight Authority.

A staff shortage is hampering the effectiveness of the Police Civilian Oversight Authority (PCOA), according to CEO Otarah Byfield-Nugent.

Speaking at the Rotary Club of Downtown Kingston meeting on Wednesday, Byfield Nugent lamented that the resource constraints are hampering the work of the oversight body, which is mandated to monitor the implementation of the policy relating to the police force and auxiliaries to ensure that internationally accepted standards of policing are maintained.

“It’s challenging sometimes in terms of resources. I have a staff currently of 10, an establishment of 16,” she said. “Thirteen are operationalised. We only have 10 now. And the inspection unit, which is really the engine to the operation of the PCOA, has five persons – one manager, the senior director, and the other three would be the field officers.”

Last September, the PCOA released a damning report that highlighted the deplorable conditions of lock-ups in the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s (JCF) Area One in western Jamaica.

This was followed by another report released in November that brought attention to the poor accommodation and working conditions for staff at the JCF’s Marine Division.

But although Byfield-Nugent said that the JCF has provided a report saying that measures were taken to remedy the conditions, her office is unable to verify this as it has not yet been able to revisit the sites due to manpower shortage.

“When you’re doing a follow-up inspection, it really sometimes can take us like six months to get back there because of the other things to do,” she told The Gleaner. “We have to be very strategic about what we look at because of the resources that we have.”

She noted that the agency has a responsibility to provide oversight for 19 geographical divisions, 180 stations, and other non-geographical divisions.

“I am very limited. I can’t go all over. There is a whole set of operations that we can look at, but we just don’t have the staff. Sometimes we don’t have the budget; the impact has been significant,” she said.

Nugent said that a staff component that allows for a structure where inspections and monitoring are done under separate units would be ideal, with each portfolio having at least five inspectors, a supervisor, manager and senior director.

She stressed that the monitoring aspect of PCOA’s operations is what would drive sustainable compliance.

Acknowledging that the oversight is “fairly new” to Jamaica, she said that she is hoping that in time, the agency, which was established in 2006, will be given the resources it needs to effectively do its job.

“I am hoping that the impact of the work and the dialogue and the exchange and as people become more aware of us and what we do, we’ll get the necessary support that is needed,” she said.