Bad soldiers hurting army’s image

October 21, 2020
Reneto Adams
A JDF tank patrols the streets of Kingston.
A JDF tank patrols the streets of Kingston.

Anthropologist Dr Herbert Gayle believes that the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) "runs the risk" of losing the respect of the public, owing to the recent string of compromising incidents involving members of the army. He, however, argued that the organisation has not reached that point as yet.

"Losing respect takes a long string of repeated errors and acts that would cause people to think of them differently. I don't think there are enough cases, because in the heads of people, they are always going to compare them with the police and the police have a longer string of fractures of peoples' trust," he said.

The JDF, one of Jamaica's most trusted institutions, has been in the spotlight due to a string of unfortunate and illegal activities done by its members. Last Friday, a soldier was hospitalised after he was allegedly stabbed by another soldier during an altercation at Up Park Camp. Just a few days before, two soldiers who were caught transporting 1,500 pounds of ganja in a JDF service vehicle were arrested in St Elizabeth, after a shoot-out with police officers.


In February, two M16 rifles were discovered missing from the JDF base at Up Park Camp. This followed another incident in which a soldier, who worked in the armoury, reportedly removed a weapon, which was later used to kill his girlfriend in Portmore, St Catherine. The soldier then turned the weapon on himself.

Ex-policeman Reneto Adams feels soldiers have lost respect among some Jamaicans, but holds that several factors are at play in the degradation of the JDF's respectability, but the main reason being because they are now everywhere, 'mingling' with everyone.

"Everybody see them every day, every night, everywhere and all that. Nobody has no respect again. They take them for granted. And because of their own behaviour too ... their negative social behaviour across the country has caused persons to lose respect for them. Recently, a video was in the media with a lady who hold a soldier and boxed him in his uniform. One time when you see soldier, yuh nuh do that!" the retired crime fighter told THE STAR.

"The people attitude change. Once upon a time people run from soldier in the streets. Now, dem nuh care." Meanwhile, Gayle said that the decision to put soldiers on the streets to support the Government's implementation of zones of special operations and states of emergency has resulted in soldiers becoming "very regular" in the eyes of the public.

"They are now having more interface with the people. So they're becoming more human. In the past, the JDF has always been used as an occasional, final go to for security. Whenever you see them, you know that the situation is really bad... they were the point of extreme," Gayle argued.

He said that the enhanced security measures is "Making them become very regular. They are now part of the rituals of security. People normally abuse the police... see them every day, know them by name, call them squaddie and so forth. The soldiers were nameless. But now, the public is now developing a close relationship with them."

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