Securing communities and transforming policing cultures: a desk study of community policing in Jamaica

Research reports and studies
May 2014
Victoria Chambers
As part of ODI’s Securing Communities project, this case study aims to examine different models of community policing around the world, to understand their diversity of objectives, approaches and methods, and what this might mean for those who aim to support community policing.   

The Jamaica case study offers a unique context vis-à-vis the other case studies under the Securing Communities project, due to the high levels of urban violent crime affecting the country which present distinct challenges for community policing. In addition, it is a valuable example of a community policing programme which has been a formal state-led process, but has taken place in a security and justice arena that has received significant support from multiple donors.  

Community policing in Jamaica has been shaped by a number of contextual factors including, in particular, high levels of violent crime which have been fuelled by socio-economic problems and the historical nexus between crime, corruption and a political culture of patronage. This has encouraged the continuation of paramilitary styles of policing that emerged from histories of slavery and colonialism and has perpetuated a deep mistrust in the police among many community members, especially in the urban communities most affected by crime. High levels of violent crime and police corruption have weakened police-community relations and meant that reliance on informal security structures has become engrained in local cultures of protection.