The government appeared ready to merge the police and the army to bring about a two-fisted onslaught against crime, reliable Observer sources said last night.
The first indication of the merger, the source said, would come today with the creation of a new joint task force comprising senior operational and intelligence officers of both arms of the security forces.
"The anticipated appointment this week of former army chief of staff, Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin, to the post of commissioner of police fits neatly into the puzzle," the source said. "Commissioner Lewin will signal a new era of co-operation between the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), and the Jamaica Defence Force in fighting crime."
The Observer source said the task force would be in charge of a wide range of security, crime prevention and law enforcement operations, including targeting crime centres, influential criminals and sources of support for criminal elements.
The mandate of the task force is well beyond the familiar police-military operations that have largely been confined to patrolling crime-ridden areas in Kingston's depressed inner-city communities.
It will operate out of the police commissioner's office at Old Hope Road in St Andrew and will meet daily to review tactics and plans.
Its work is beginning as the murder rate is inching up towards the 1,500 mark, and one day after the killing of a police sergeant in the troubled Norwood community on the outskirts of the northcoast resort city of Montego Bay.
Yesterday's killing of the sergeant, the 19th cop to be slain so far this year, is bound to further erode morale in the police force which was already reeling from the double killing of two cops last Thursday, one of them Assistant Commissioner Gilbert Kameka, the highest ranked policeman to be slain in recent history.
Previous calls for the merger of the JDF and the JCF to fight crime have usually been ignored, but with growing anxiety in the new government to send a signal that it intends to deal with the spiralling crime rate, especially murder, the source said the merger idea had gained traction.
National Security Minister Derrick Smith could not be reached last night for comment, but he is expected to elaborate on the work of the merged operations this week.