Code of Conduct for Police–Citizen Relations in Jamaica

The following has been extracted from ‘A Code of Conduct for Police-Citizen Relations in Jamaica’.

This Code of Conduct has been developed by the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce for the guidance of citizens and members of the security forces in Jamaica. Its purpose is to ensure that appropriate conduct and behavior guide all interactions between citizens and members of the security forces.


CITIZEN: What Do I Do When I Am Approached By The Police?

  1. Do not run away. To do so may make you appear guilty.
  2. Show no hostility.
  3. Remain calm. Remember that innocent persons have nothing to fear.
  4. Listen carefully to everything you are told and, instructed or ordered to do, as you may be requested to repeat EXACTLY what you were told (especially if you should have a complaint).

POLICE: What Do I Do When I Am Approaching A Citizen?

  1. Do not use force if questions, requests, demands or commands are disregarded; citizens have the right to remain silent. You must be guided by the hallmarks of professional conduct- Justice and Fairness- when enforcing the law.
  2. When questioning, you should not do so in an intimidating manner. Citizens should be allowed to contact a lawyer before answering questions, if they so desire.
  3. Remember, members of the public have the right to ask to see your identification card. You should be ready at any time to produce this card upon request. If in plain clothes, the ID must be presented when approaching a citizen.
  4. Statements are not to be taken from juveniles (a person 17 years and younger) without the presence of a parent or guardian


CITIZEN: What Are My Rights & Responsibilities When My Premises Are Being Searched?

You have the right to see and read the search warrant or written directive from the police officer requesting the search. Otherwise a search is illegal and must not be conducted unless you give permission. The police may only search your premises without a warrant while in pursuit of a felon or when the police have reason to believe that an offence is being committed on your premises, or is about to be committed.

A Force Order now requires a duplicate search warrant to be given to you before the search.

You must remain in the presence of the officers conducting the search at all times. After you have seen the search warrant, refusing entry may make you appear guilty when you have nothing to hide. The police may use force if, after they have shown a warrant, you refuse entry.

POLICE: What Are My Rights & Responsibilities When Searching A Citizen’s Premises?

You must have a search warrant to conduct the search of the premises. You must indicate to the occupants of the premises before commencing the search that you have a search warrant.

A duplicate warrant must be given to the person whose premises you are searching. This should be done before the search.

You may search premises without a warrant or written directive if you have the permission of the occupants. You must ensure that the occupants are in your presence and observing you when you are conducting the search

You can use force only if after you have handed the occupant a copy of the warrant you are refused entry.


CITIZEN: What Should I Do If I Am Being Questioned, Searched And/Or Apprehended?

Clearly but in a respectful tone, ask the relevant officer any of the following:

“Why am I being questioned/searched/apprehended or arrested, Officer?”

If you feel your actions have been misunderstood, say:

“Officer, please let me explain…”

Even if you think you have been wrongfully detained and the police officer does not show you the respect that is due to you as a citizen, keep calm and continue to show restraint and self-control.

CITIZEN: What Must I Do If I Am Being Charged?

Cooperate and do not become violence, aggressive or offensive. Keep a mental note of everything that happens. You may have to take action against the officer(s) later, and you will need to say exactly how you were treated.

You have the right to refuse to answer questions until your legal representative is present.

If you are carried away from where you were in a police vehicle, ask a friend or bystander to take down the licence number of the vehicle and tell your family.

Try to obtain the name and rank of at least one officer who is removing you.

You should only be taken to a station or police lock-up or, if injured, to the hospital

Ask for a phone call or ask to send a message or a note right away and keep asking until you can reach someone. Let them know what has happened and where you are.

If you are taken into custody, the police are responsible for your safety and the arresting officer should tell you that you are entitled to legal representation.  If you do not have a lawyer, one should be notified from a list of names of duty Counsel (attorneys) posted at the station

Citizens must not hinder the police when they are arresting or apprehending anyone as this constitutes a criminal offence.

You must not harbor, hide or protect anyone who the police is attempting to arrest or apprehend as doing this constitutes a criminal offence.

CITIZEN: If I Am Arrested, How Do I Get Bail?

If you are arrested, you may be granted bail:

On your own recognizance (that means you are known by the officer and can be trusted to appear in court)

Or someone will have to agree to swear that you will not run away and you will appear in court as scheduled. This means that the person stands ‘surety’ for you.

If you are not granted station bail, you are taken into custody and put in police lock-up until you appear in court.

The final decision about granting or denying you bail lies with the Court

POLICE: When Should I Recommend Station Bail?

Bail should be granted to a person charged and arrested for an offence which is not pubishable by imprisonment

Do not grant station bail in the following cases:

  • Where a person is kept in custody for their own protection
  • Where the person has absconded bail in the past
  • Where the person is already in custody pursuant to a sentence of the court

Persons arrested must be allowed visits from their attorneys at any reasonable time, and from visitors during visiting hours.


POLICE: When May I Use Force?

Reasonable force may be lawfully used by the police ONLY in the following circumstances:

  • To make a lawful arrest, using however only that force necessary to carry out this function
  • In self-defense
  • To protect other members of the police force or other citizens who are facing an immediate threat to their safety

It is unlawful for force to be used to punish misbehavior, for revenge or in response to a spoken threat or insult



CITIZEN: What Are My Rights & Responsibilities In Respect Of Driving A Motor Vehicle? 

It is your responsibility to register the vehicle you own and to operate within the limits of your license

You must have a valid certificate of fitness and the vehicle must be licensed and insured. You can continue to use your vehicle on the roads within one month of the expiry of the licence. But you should not use your vehicle on the road if the vehicles’ certificate of fitness or insurance coverage has expired.

You should always travel with your driver’s license when operating a motor vehicle

If you are unable to produce your driver’s license but can satisfy the officer requesting your license as to your identity, then you will be required to produce the licence at a Police Station within five days.

POLICE: What Are My Rights In Respect Of Seizing A Motor Vehicle?

As a member of the Police Force you have the right to seize any motor vehicle or trailer used on the public road which:

  • Is not registered or not licenses or the vehicle’s licence expired more than a month ago
  • Is being operated in contravention of its licence
  • Has a Registration Plate which is hidden or not easily distinguishable
  • The vehicle is a PPV or CMC operating without Road Licence or Carriers Licence.

The Police should keep vehicles seized under the Road Traffic Act, until the Act is complied with

The Police can also seize vehicles under the following categories:

Section 24 of the Dangerous Drugs Act

If the vehicle was involved or suspected to be involved in the commission of any offence, in which case the owner or driver should be prosecuted

For exhibit in cases in which the vehicle was involved in the commission of an offence.

You do not have the power to seize vehicles for operating without insurance coverage, but the owner or driver should be prosecuted

CITIZEN: What Should I Do When Driving & Asked By The Police To Stop?

The law states that you must stop when requested by a police officer in uniform (section 56-58 Road Traffic Act). Show restraint and remain calm, even if you believe the police have stopped you unnecessarily.

You will be guilty of an offence:

  • If you do not stop
  • If, as a passenger, you prevent or intimidate the driver from stopping
  • If you escape, or attempt to escape, from the vehicle when the police has asked the driver to stop

If the police officer behaves in an unprofessional manner, write down or try to remember his/her badge number, name, vehicle registration plate or other identifying marks, should you need to make a complaint

POLICE: How Should I Deal With The Driving Public When I Ask That They Stop Their Vehicles?

You have the right, by law, top stop and keep stationary any vehicle using the roadways, for the detection and prevention of crime and the general safety of the public.

In carrying out these functions you should:

  1. Always approach a member of the public professionally and politely
  2. Say “Good Morning” or “Good evening” depending on the time of day, then make your request clearly known
  3. Never let your decision be inappropriately influenced by the attitude of members of the public

In the event that the driver is not in possession of his/her driver’s licence, request some other form of identification 


CITIZEN: What If I Have Been Mistreated Or Had My Rights Abused By The Police?

The Police Public Complaints Authority
12 Ocean Boulevard, Kingston
Toll free Tel: 1-888-367-4357
Tel: 967-3603/4063

The Office of the Public Defender
78 Harbour Street, Kingston
Tel: 922-7089/ 922-7109
The Human Rights Consultant
Ministry of National Security
2 Kensington Cres., Kingston 5
Tel: 906-4908/ 920-7181/ 948- 6465

The Office of the Attorney General
Mutual Life Building, (North Tower)
2 Oxford Road, Kingston 5
Tel: 906-2414/ 906-1678

Kingston Legal Aid Clinic Limited
131 Tower Street, Kingston
Tel: 922-3792/ 922-3761/ 922-3556

The Norman Manley Law School Legal Aid Clinic
Gibraltar Camp Road
University of the West Indies
Mona, Kingston 7
Tel: 927-1007

Jamaicans for Justice
2A Grants Pen Road
Kingston 8
Tel: 755-4524
The Independent Jamaica Council for Human Rights
131 Tower Street, Kingston
Tel: 967-1204

An Attorney-at-Law

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Editor’s Note

The Code of Conduct was drafted and developed by a special steering committee of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) Inner-city Development Committee. The entire Code of Conduct publication can be purchased at the offices of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce on Ocean Boulevard in downtown Kingston.