Country Listing

Caribbean Islands Table of Contents

Caribbean Islands

The Public Security Forces

Jamaica has endorsed measures to ensure security of the Western Hemisphere but has not participated in any formal defense agreements. Despite its proximity to Cuba, Jamaica has not felt a need to maintain a large defense force, perhaps because it has always had powerful protectors. Even with the support of the police, the armed forces would be totally inadequate to resist foreign military aggression, especially from Cuba. Like the other English-speaking island-nations in the Caribbean, Jamaica would have to rely on the assistance of a powerful ally in the event of outside military aggression. The nation's combined forces also would be inadequate to control a significant internal disturbance. Jamaica has not been threatened by military or mercenary invasion or internal insurgencies, however, in part because of its powerful allies, but also because of its traditional political stability and its relative isolation from mainland countries and the more vulnerable Eastern Caribbean microstates.

In 1987 the Ministry of National Security (which had included the Justice portfolio during 1974-86) remained responsible for maintaining the internal and external security of the island, but it no longer administered justice. In 1987 this ministry oversaw the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), and the correctional programs and institutions. The Ministry of National Security's 1986 budget allocation was approximately US$69 million for recurrent expenses and US$6.5 million for capital works, accounting for 5.9 percent of the central government's budget. In 1984 US$38 million of this ministry's budget was allocated to the police force. The JDF budget declined in the 1980s for budgetary reasons; it was approximately US$20 million in 1986, as compared with US$25,430,000 in 1985 and US$38,880,000 in 1984.

Although traditionally apolitical, both the JDF and JCF were subject to governmental policy directives. Their commanders--the JCF commissioner and the JDF chief of staff, respectively--were responsible for managing their respective forces on a day-to-day basis. JCF and JDF commanders explained in December 1986 that the minister of national security could make suggestions or recommendations to either force, and the JDF or JCF high commands could consider them as they saw fit.

Data as of November 1987