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US, Jamaica strengthen law enforcement partnership

The American Government recently deepened its partnership with Jamaican law enforcement with the creation of a digital handbook designed to help local investigators strengthen their preparation of case files in criminal matters.

According to Dr Linnisa Wahid, director of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) at the US Embassy in Kingston, more than 100 officials from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Financial Investigations Division, Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency, and the Independent Commission of Investigations participated in the November 5 launch of the legal reference handbook entitled JCF Offences, Points to Prove and Authorities.

“This will be key for investigators and will …assist investigators to strengthen their investigations and case file preparations,” Dr Wahid told journalists during a round-table discussion between US Embassy officials and Jamaica journalists at Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on Tuesday.

Pointing out that the US is particularly proud of its work to help strengthen the island’s criminal justice capacity, Dr Wahid said the handbook will go a far way in improving operational efficiency and ultimately reduce case backlogs.

Given the proliferation of firearms and narcotics in the region, Dr Wahid said INL has two regional programmes that focus on both forms of trafficking. Regarding the programme on firearms, she said the US is working with Jamaica to develop a national firearms action plan which includes specific training on ballistics and firearms tracing.

She added that it is necessary for attention to be given to financial crimes that support gang activities and said it is unfortunate that Americans lose roughly US$300 million per year to financial scams.

“The other regional programme is a capacity-building [one] that works with Jamaica Customs Agency and the JCF to target shipping containers with narcotics and firearms. We also focus on financial crimes that support gangs. As such, we provide training and mechanisms to combat financial crimes, such as financial scams,” she said.

“We also continue to support the justice sector’s efforts and continuing legal education. We have provided equipment such as video conferencing systems and continue to work with them to improve operational efficiency,” she added.

Dr Wahid said over the last five years, the US budgeted about US$8 million to support law enforcement and justice stakeholders through capacity-building training to combat gangs and transnational organised crime. Dismantling gangs, she added, is a priority for both Kingston and Washington, especially as it pertains to decreasing domestic homicides and transnational crime.

“Over 70 per cent of the murders on the island are gang-related. Therefore, INl has made this a key priority for our assistance,” Dr Wahid said. “In August 2020, we provided capacity-building training for over 200 prosecutors, law enforcement officials and correctional officers on the best practices in terms of gang intelligence-gathering, evidence analysis, use of informants and civil asset recovery. This training was led by both US, Jamaican and regional experts and was the first in a series of gang investigations and prosecutions.”

Other discussions surrounded funding from the US to support Jamaica in its fight against HIV/AIDS and COVID-19. There were also discussions about the impact COVID-19 has had on the processing and issuance of certain categories of visas.