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How does the FLA explain refusing a cop a gun licence?

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

It is painful to hear the travail of chairman of the Jamaica Police Federation (JPF) Detective Sergeant Patrae Rowe calling for the death penalty to be imposed on criminals who attack members of the security forces.

As things are, killing a policeman is treated as a capital crime for which the punishment is death. Sergeant Rowe is saying that any attack casing injury to members of the security forces should also be punishable by death.

We surmise that Sergeant Rowe is demonstrating the depth of his desperation over the apparent helplessness of the police in countering the brazen attacks on their members by increasingly bold and heavily armed gunmen.

The latest of these attacks claimed the lives of Jamaica Defence Force (JCF) Private Reneil King, who was shot and killed during a narcotics operation in Clarendon, and Constable Kemar Francis, of the Hunt's Bay Police Station, while on patrol on Pretoria Road in Kingston 11.

“The brazen attack on the police is indicative of the level of lawlessness in our country and the very little resistance that they are faced with when they contemplate injuring or committing crime against the police,” the JPF chairman lamented.

“It is time for our legislation to have sufficient deterrents to ensure that attacks on the police are met with equal force and… the criminals who attack police should be assured that once the police officers are shot and injured they are guaranteed the death penalty and the attack against the police is considered a capital crime.”

This suggestion might be a tall order in that the death penalty relates to the taking of a life. But we might read into that the utter frustration being felt by Detective Sergeant Rowe and the men and women for whom he speaks.

Only recently, he complained that several police officers have been refused permits for personal firearms by the State-run Firearms Licensing Authority (FLA), despite the fact that the police high command had raised the threat level for cops to high.

Here, again, we understand his concerns. What logic could there be in refusing a gun licence to an employed policeman or policewoman who is on active duty?

“We believe that it is completely absurd for police officers to be carrying out policing functions with police-issued firearms on a daily basis and are entrusted with the keep and care of firearms, but yet FLA is refusing members (personal) firearms,” Mr Rowe said.

And he is right. This surely is something that must be immediately addressed by the National Security Ministry and the Firearms Licensing Authority. If a cop can carry a gun while on duty, what is preventing him from carrying one off duty?

We understand that a firearms licence or prohibited weapon permit must be suspended if a person is charged with a domestic violence offence, or if there is reasonable cause to believe that the licensee has committed or has threatened to commit a domestic violence offence under Jamaican law. This newspaper, would, of course, be shocked to hear that there are cops who have been so charged but are allowed to carry weapons on the job.

Minister Horace Chang and Mr Shane Dalling, chief executive officer of the FLA, need to clear the air.