The Police versus The Citizens of Jamaica

by: Iyana Stewart - Gaynor

Jamaica confirmed its first COVID-19 case on March 10, 2020. The first case was imported after an individual came to the island to attend a funeral. She was isolated on March 9th at the University Hospital of the West Indies. After the case was confirmed, the government began putting in measures to help with community spread and tracing. Notably, the government has earmarked money to fund the prevention, control, treatment and containment of the virus.

The Jamaican Flag


The COVID-19 pandemic led to many individuals all around the world, particularly in the United States, becoming more aware of the social issues taking place in their communities. A surge in outcries and protests occurred over the unlawful killing of George Floyd. These protests and public demonstrations expanded to Jamaica and crowds started protesting in support of their American brothers and sisters, but also in response to protocols, human rights violations and issues occurring directly in Jamaica. As a result, the government was not only aiming to protect their police force due to the strict protocols put in place (that the citizens did not agree with), but they also employed them to take the opportunity to ensure a stop was put to its own human rights violations in regard to the police. The government was implored, by Amnesty International to protect the Independent Commission of Investigations’ powers to arrest, charge, and initiate prosecutions of officers, which have resulted in a halving of fatal killings by the police since 2014.


As a way to curb the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jamaica put in place numerous protocols including a curfew and limit on number of individuals that can gather in one place. The only way to ensure these protocols are followed and the spread of the virus is confined, is by citizens and law enforcement working hand in hand. While there is corruption in the law enforcement and in the government in Jamaica, in regards to COVID-19, the major issue being seen is as a result of the actions of the Jamaican citizens. They continuously have shown no respect for the protocols, the government nor the police force and have used violence as a constant response. Many of the underdeveloped areas of Jamaica need more policing than others and have been turned into areas called ZOSOs (Zone of Special Operations). These areas have been in place since before the pandemic, but the illegal activity and violence have increased in these areas since the pandemic, as well as the constant breaking of protocols. Much of this violence has been directed towards the police and on June 13 2020, four police men were shot by gunmen while on operation early in the morning, fulfilling their duties to serve and protect.

Male and Female Police Officers in Uniform


As mentioned before, while a lot of issues are being instigated by Jamaican citizens, the police have made their own mistakes and have their own level of corruption and Jamaicans have had to stand up for their own during this pandemic. One of the major responses was a protest for justice for Susan Bogle. Bogle was a disabled woman who was allegedly accidentally killed by police on 27th of May 2020.


Due to constantly being in public and interacting with citizens, many police officers are at risk to contracting the COVID-19 virus. While approximately 100 members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) are in quarantine because of exposure to contacts of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases, by August 26, only 8 police officers had tested positive for COVID-19.


Because of the rapid spread of the virus in Jamaica, due to ignorance and lack of regard for authority and law, the government had implemented island wide curfews which were out in place to aim to lessen the time people had to socialize after work. Along with this curfew, gatherings were to be no larger than 15 people and social distancing protocols were to be adhered to. Jamaican’s are used to a party culture and despite the protocols put in place by the government, citizens did everything in their power to ensure they were still partying. This made the jobs of the police even harder because of the blatant disregard of laws by Jamaicans. In the month of October, there were two attacks on police by party goers. Police in the parish of St. Ann, during their attempt to bring and entertainment event that was in breech of the Disaster Risk Management Act, were stoned and bottled by patrons who claimed the event was a nine night (held to morn a person’s death), and not a party.

Members of the JCF at a Crime Scene


The police in Jamaica however, despite their duty to serve and protect, in the second week of November 2020, turned away two victims of crimes because they showed up to the police station after curfew hours. In one case, a young lady fled from her abusive boyfriend’s house between and 1:00a.m. and went to the police station closest to where she was, only to hear the police officer say he could not take the report because the curfew was in effect. Despite all her pleas and dire situation, he threatened to arrest her. However, it was later made clear that police stations; regardless of the curfew, are open 24 hours and that nobody should be turned back when going to make a report. This shows the disregard police tend to have of their duty. Police in Jamaica, like the citizens, also only have respect for the law when it is convenient for them and have used the curfew put in place to make money off of citizens. Police in Jamaica take bribes from citizens when they stop them during curfew hours. If the police whose duty it is to enforce the law, themselves break it, what example do the citizens follow. As a Jamaican, my friends and I have had firsthand experiences showing police blatant disregard for the law.

Commissioner Of Police


On November 26 2020, the prime minister of Jamaica announced the upcoming release of a ticketing system for COVID-19 breeches. This will give the police another medium through which to make money off of citizens. This indirectly causes tension between the police and citizens because they believe their intensions are impure.

Police Directing Traffic