Interview with Jamaica’s Deputy Chief of Defence Staff, Brigadier General Rocky R. Meade
By Dialogo January 19, 2012
“We are past the point where we think the military has no business in law enforcement. This is the military’s business,” stated Jamaica’s Chief of Defence during the Caribbean Nations Security Conference (CANSEC) 2011. Major General Antony Anderson said this because Jamaica has a homicide rate of 52 per 100,000, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. That makes it the fourth most-violent country in the world after Honduras, El Salvador and Cote d’Ivoire. Jamaica decided to tackle this issue by making the country’s armed forces more involved through direct support of soldiers and joint patrolling. It is also offering training and course development for and with the Police, among other capacities.
According to the regional chiefs of defense attending CANSEC 2012, held in St. Kitts and Nevis in December 2011, and co-sponsored by the U.S. Southern Command, this is a good model to emulate. Diálogo spoke to Jamaica’s Deputy Chief of Defence Staff, Brigadier General Rocky R. Meade about this and other issues that affect Jamaica and other nations in the Caribbean and beyond.
Diálogo: What are the main issues affecting Jamaica in terms of security and defense now?
Brigadier General Rocky R. Meade: The most significant is Transnational Organized Crime [TCO], though it’s common across the region. In Jamaica, the issue of TCO manifests itself in a lot of violent criminal activities, such a high murder rate. Our murder rate, for example, is much too high for a country like ours, and from our analysis, the majority of those killings are related to Transnational Organized Crime of different sorts, so I would say it is the major issue. The other issue we have, which is of significance, is unplanned events that have a major impact, for example natural or man-made disasters; anything that can happen in an emergency that we have to respond that affects our national security. Those are the two main areas of focus that we have and we work with the region to try and resolve.
Diálogo: What has Jamaica done to improve these issues at the nation and regional level?
Brig. Gen. Rocky R. Meade: In Jamaica we work very closely with the Police. What we do is provide the resources that the Police does not have, including maritime resources, air resources, and additional man power. The intelligence aspect is quite important as well, and we work with all of our partners internally and externally to make sure we have a common intelligence picture so that we can prosecute it. From a disaster perspective, we have disaster agents that we support since we are the ones with the air resources to support disaster relief. We also respond to the region – when Haiti had the earthquake – we were the first to send resources, so we have this regional collaboration as well.
Diálogo: We understand that other countries want to emulate what is being done in Jamaica. Why is that?
Brig. Gen. Rocky R. Meade: Because we have had years of working with the Police. We had some great success last year  with an internal security problem that we had. We have been reducing the murder rate consistently from last year with this partnership that we have with the Police, so once there’s success, others will want to see how we do this and we are quite happy to assist.
Diálogo: Is there a mandate in which the Armed Forces help support the Police Force?
Brig. Gen. Rocky R. Meade: Yes. There is a mandate. We are governed by the Defense Act and in it there is a clause for us to assist the civil authority, and the Police come under that. The prime minister gives us direct operational permission to assist the Police because we cannot engage within our country as a military without that authority. So the two instruments that affect us are direct instructions from the prime minister for us to move forward in that assistance, but the Defense Act as a broad umbrella document provides the legal framework for us to assist the Police.
Diálogo: Does Jamaica fall under the category of countries in the region being used as transit countries for illicit activity that leaves behind weapons to be used for violent crimes? What is being done to counter this and how can it be applied to other countries?
Brig. Gen. Rocky R. Meade: We do not have an internal drug use problem that is a chronic situation, but we do have consumption, even though that is not our main problem from the organized criminals. It [our main problem] is the transshipment effort, the money laundering that comes from it, the corruption of officials that come from it and by providing guns for the enforcement of the transshipment effort, those guns are used for other purposes and that’s really what accounts for our murder rate. What we are doing specifically is we are targeting the gangs to the extent that we can identify those specific gangs that contribute to the trafficking of weapons and drugs and killings. We are targeting their leadership and their members. We have specific legislation in addition to strengthening the Forfeiture Acts. So we are tackling the source of the problem in terms of the network of the gangs that facilitate the transshipment of drugs and weapons and result in a lot of criminal activity in the country.
Diálogo: Is it a crime to be a member of a gang in Jamaica?
Brig. Gen. Rocky R. Meade: Not yet, but this is one of the discussions that we are having in terms of the anti-gang legislation. At the moment, gang members have to actually commit an offense to become a criminal, but that is something we are pushing very actively and we are very close to having a final decision on that.
Diálogo: How important is it for Jamaica to work with the U.S.?
Brig. Gen. Rocky R. Meade: It’s very important. Certainly the United States has the greatest resources within the region. We are mindful of the fact that the United States has interests all over the world, but to the extent that they engage us in the Caribbean, we look forward to engaging with them. We see it as a partnership – although we’re small – we’re always looking for ways to help the U.S. as well, because clearly the U.S. has interests in the region, and we want to build the capacity to be helpful to the U.S.