Fri | Dec 2, 2022

Letter of the Day | States of emergency … here we go again!

Published:Wednesday | November 23, 2022 | 12:08 AM


So, we persist with the imposition of states of emergency (SOEs) to curb our high murder rate and criminality generally. Let there be no doubt whatsoever that the current security situation requires a robust response from the security forces.

My disagreement with using the SOE as a crime-fighting tool, especially the manner in which it is being used, is well known.

Notwithstanding, I have expressed the view that a two-week period of an SOE, which then transitions into a well-thought-out series of security forces operations islandwide, would be appropriate and acceptable.

It is unfortunate and regrettable that the utterances and posturing of some of our leaders have led most Jamaicans to believe that there are only two possible states of security forces response to criminality.

These two states are: firstly, what we commonly refer to as “normal policing” on the one hand, and on the other, the “SOE”. The public can be forgiven for buying into this narrative which is false and should be rejected. This narrative ignores the fact that there is a range of strategies and operational measures that can be carefully crafted and executed along that continuum between “normal policing” and an “SOE”.


The normal policing and the SOE toolkits which are at the ends of a continuum contain the same set of tools, save and except, firstly, in the case of the SOE, habeas corpus can be suspended and a programme of preventive detention introduced. Secondly, members of the military can operate independently of the police. The lack of these two tools will not prove fatal to the objectives of the security force’s operations.

It cannot be that whenever we experience an uptick in criminal activity such as to require a robust security force response, we merely reach for the SOE toolkit. In my view, this is a toolkit that should only be broken out in circumstances where a public emergency exists or is imminent and the life of the nation is threatened, and, there are no less intrusive and restrictive means available to reach the same goal.

This myopic adherence to merely pulling the SOE toolkit and using its tools in the manner to which we have grown accustomed will just not cut it. If we continue to do so we could very well find that one day we really need a SOE, only to discover that we have turned it into a farce.

Much has been said about the skills, ingenuity and the changing nature of criminal enterprises. Nothing new here, that is a given. But, the people of Jamaica have invested heavily in the training and equipping of our security specialists and we the people expect a better return on those investments.

I repeat my often-expressed view that the security forces, led by their highly capable commanders and staff, can craft a well-considered and sensible set of strategies, with each strategy supported by the appropriate operational tools from the toolbox.


We need a robust operational response islandwide, one that is dynamic and flexible with as much of the element of surprise as possible. Criminals and criminal organisations must be kept off balance and on the run. That is when they make mistakes which the security forces can capitalise on.

To be successful we must pursue the criminals relentlessly, apply greater mental elasticity in our operational planning and execution, and, ensure the sustainability of the operations by applying economies of effort.

These are not normal times and normal policing is grossly inadequate to cope with the times. From a security perspective, all is not lost, or even threatened, but, we must reverse the trend.

Let us not act in apparent desperation for whatsoever reason and reach for that SOE toolbox in the first instance. That has to be preserved and hopefully, will never have to be employed. If and when employed, however, there must be no doubt that there is a state of emergency.

In the meantime, let us devise and execute an appropriate operational plan with the aim of curtailing murders and restoring public confidence. The security forces have the knowledge, training, skills and adequate resources to achieve this. Our political and other leaders can play their part by rallying the country behind such an effort.

In my last Letter to the Editor published on November 29, 2021, I asked of our political leaders: Can they answer the clarion call?