Tue | Mar 21, 2023
– Ret’d DCP Novelette Grant

WANTED: A proper public safety and security plan

Published:Sunday | November 13, 2022 | 12:12 AMErica Virtue - Senior Gleaner Writer

Retired Deputy Commissioner of Police Novelette Grant
Retired Deputy Commissioner of Police Novelette Grant
Novelette Grant believes mobile police stations should be deployed to serve areas where a physical plant is miles away.
Novelette Grant believes mobile police stations should be deployed to serve areas where a physical plant is miles away.

DCP Novelette Grant retired from the JCF in 2018.
DCP Novelette Grant retired from the JCF in 2018.

Retired Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Novelette Grant had anticipated that at least one female would have been on the panel which interviewed her for the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s (JCF) top job in 2017. Instead, as she sought to become the first woman to lead the force, she walked into a roomful of men – members of the Police Service Commission.

The eventual appointee, George Quallo, served for nine months before stepping down, and was succeeded by the incumbent, Major General Antony Anderson, a former head of the Jamaica Defence Force and national security adviser to the prime minister.

Grant, who still believes she was the most suitable candidate to succeed Dr Carl Williams five years ago, called time on her 37-year career in the JCF in 2018.

Since then, she has been “fully immersed in the voluntary sector”, working with social groups to drive domestic violence intervention and awareness programmes, through workshops and training, continuing the service she has been giving for the last 20 years.

“Violence and domestic violence cannot be handled by any single institution,” she told The Sunday Gleaner last week, straight off the bat.

Noting that multiagency support was needed to bring lasting change in communities, she does not believe efforts to combat the nation’s crime problem are sufficiently coordinated, with too much dependence on law enforcement.

“Part of the challenge is that the media continues to extend a narrative that was narrow in focus in asking for the ‘crime plan’. We don’t need a crime plan. We need a proper public safety and security plan. What does that look like? And, within the framework of that plan, we address and deal with various crimes, including violent crimes.”

The issue of violence, she noted, was not a policing problem, but rather a societal one.

An effective policy position to reap results should be matched with environmental realities, and must be monitored and evaluated to identify gaps, and, if necessary, be reset in a timely manner, she stated.

Jamaica is ranked as the second most murderous country in the world, with a homicide rate of 44 per 100,000 people. Police data reveal that, up to November 5, some 1,329 persons were murdered across the island.

The situation leaves the JCF burdened with a pile of unsolved cases and, except where guilty pleas are offered, trials can lag in the justice system for years. With the pandemic compounding the problem of Jamaicans shunning jury duty, Chief Justice Bryan Sykes has asked lawyers to embrace judge-only trials. And while Grant was not overly enthused with the suggestion, she is sympathetic to the circumstances.

“I have some degree of confidence in the judiciary to be able to discharge their functions well. The law of the land is that, if you commit certain crimes, you should be tried by a jury of your peers. But, again, [considering the] environmental realities, you have to adapt and change and put in the necessary safeguards to ensure that people’s rights are upheld,” said the former head of the JCF’s Area Five, which covers the St Andrew North, St Catherine North and South, and St Thomas divisions.

“An accused person should have his or her day in court, so we can’t continue to lament where we are having challenges and not try to figure out how to address those challenges,” she stressed.


Grant told The Sunday Gleaner that witness management is a challenge.

“We had drafted a document. We were not able to get it to where we wanted it, but witnesses need to be reassured. You need to know if they are having challenges. You need to keep in touch with them because your prosecution depends on them. But the police officer who is bogged down trying to out fires in different hotspots is unable to keep in touch with witnesses,” she noted.

During her time, some retired personnel were re-engaged to assist in the witness-management process. She lamented that the programme was discontinued before she retired.

A former head of the police’s Professional Standards Branch, Grant said the JCF has always been constrained by a lack of sufficient resources, including an inadequate number of detectives, who she deems among the most critical to the force and its ability to solve crimes.

“Remember, the organisation has movements because nobody stays forever. People leave voluntarily, others because it’s time for them to go. Some die before they can leave and some are separated because of misconduct and so on. When you look at the volume [of cases], just the homicides alone, how many detectives would it take to properly investigate those cases?” Grant asked.

She said the investigative capacity of the general force must be strengthened to assist the detectives, as the demand outstrips what can be done on any given day. It is why a judicious balance is needed between the preventative and the reactive investigative approach to violence, she stated.

Citing prevention initiatives and efforts, Grant said she could not speak with any confidence about their efficacy.

“Largely because the monitoring and evaluation, as a society, we do not have that to look at outcomes gained and what is learned. So there are lots of things happening but probably not as coordinated as it ought to be,” she argued.

Admitting that it was easy to make prescriptions outside of the organisation, the former DCP in charge of administration – the second woman in the JCF’s history to be elevated to that rank – said policing issues have to be eyeballed internally and externally.

“I have been doing my voluntary thing with violence prevention, providing information where I can and helping persons to navigate certain situations without much attention to what is going on. Other than that, I don’t get myself immersed, so I have no idea what I would do now,” she stated. “Back then, we had been doing a number of things and had a blueprint of what could be done. So we knew some of the things which gave us results. It is important that the things that are known are brought out and shared in a way that benefits all. I am not talking about confidential things, but what happens in communities, in a way that, when you create an intervention, design and develop law enforcement tactics, you know what to do.”


As the demand for greater dependence on forensics is made, investments have been made in that regard and many tertiary graduates are also entering the force. And while the 152-year-old JCF has made efforts at reform years ago, deep-seated cultural practices have remained.

Grant said that she and others have been strong advocates for a new JCF Act, but she is unaware of where that dialogue has reached.

“The other thing you have to look at is some of the physical spaces from which service is delivered. It is just totally inadequate. They don’t allow for confidentiality,” she stated, adding that, during the reform, efforts were made to create reception rooms at some stations, as individuals had no privacy in reporting matters.

With police divisions spanning large geographical areas, Grant believes mobile police stations should be deployed to serve areas where a physical plant is miles away.

“This is something that we should invest in because we might not have the money to build physical stations, but, if we’re able to have adequate numbers of mobile stations to serve rural communities and where you can send a team to interact with these communities and deal with some of the small issues that are there fomenting and that can lead to major problems, [this could reap dividends],” she suggested.

She recalled a rural community with secrets of incest and sexual abuse which came to a head when the mother of an assaulted teen reported the matter. The community erupted in violence, resulting in a string of murders as the abuse was not considered a matter that should have been reported.

She also earned the ire of another community when she arrested a father for incest, as it was also seen as an accepted behaviour there.

It took a historical analysis and a social report into the community to unearth the truth, which ended the series of reprisal murders and other violent crimes over several years. With the dark, deadly secret now exposed, the police were better able to develop strategies to keep the peace.


Grant warned that the police, especially in rural communities, should never assume that the absence of overt violence meant there was no violence. It is important for cops to be aware of issues that have caused inter-generational feuds and the evils around which communities coalesce.

“Instead of waiting for persons to come and say this is wrong, if you are able to have a proactive presence, even once a week, so that the community knows the police will come and they can talk about issues impacting them”, the cops could help to build the peace with the mobile stations, she said. “It would be nice to equip such a unit with social workers.”

On-the-ground presence must be part of the solution in tackling the nation’s crime crisis, Grant noted, adding that there are enough retired good cops who could look at situations through different lenses and draw on their knowledge of things that worked in the past, becoming part of an effective think tank to find fixes.

Grant also served at the JCF Staff College where she was part of the body that designed the senior strategic management course for assistant commissioners and senior superintendents.