Not true

Police counter public defender’s claims, say accusations meant to demean JCF

Observer writer

Friday, November 30, 2018

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FREEPORT, St James — The St James police yesterday denied a number of claims made by Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry in her report to Parliament last week concerning conditions in which detainees are being held under the state of public emergency (SOE) in St James.

“The information that ended up in the public domain, which I think was meant to demean the JCF (Jamaica Constabulary Force), was broadcast right throughout Jamaica,” Deputy Superintendent of Police Ainsley McCarty told journalists at a news conference at the Freeport Police Station held after the police took the media on a tour of the detention facilities.

“Suffice to say, the day before the public defender went to Parliament — because the public defender has spoken to me on numerous occasions and she knows that I am accessible 24 hours a day to her — she called me to clarify certain information. And if she wanted [further] clarity, she could have asked during that period of time and I would have said to the public defender that this was the situation,” McCarty said.

Earlier, the tour revealed a detention area and bathroom facility which appeared to be in a good condition. There was no sign of clean-up work done before the arrival of the press.

The bathroom had a concrete shower with curtain, face basin, a flush toilet without seat, and a urinal. The bathroom also had piped water.

Freeport is the detention centre for males, while Barrett Town is specifically made for the housing of children, and Cambridge for women.

The public defender had told Parliament that there were some 105 children up to the age of 17 detained as of October 31.

However, Senior Superintendent of Police Anthony Morris, who is the officer in charge of the SOE, said this was not the case. “At no time did we ever have that number of children in custody,” he said.

According to Morris, the police records show that in January, 10 children were in custody; in February there were 12; in March, eight; April, 11; May, seven; June, five; July, 13; August, 12; September had eight; October, 11; and during this month, eight.

He said that a number of the youngsters were processed and released immediately, except for 10 who were charged with serious offences — three for murder, four for possession of firearms, two for sexual offences, and one for what is considered a minor offence.

As it relates to females, 21 were taken into custody. Seven of those, the police said, were acting as prostitutes when they were picked up this month.

He also stated that of those detained, a number of them were associated with major gangs while one was identified as a major gang leader.

In relation to the public defender's charge of missing data, DSP McCarty said that as a form of transparency, the public defender had access to data inputted. He said at times a justice of the peace is used to verify the identity of individuals who are then released after being identified.

He added that in relation to missing dates of birth, the police do not have control over those who genuinely do not have documents verifying the information given by detainees.

Food was another concern raised by the public defender who said that poor diet was fed to the detainees, which includes “black tea” (sugar and water) and “dry bread”. She also said in some instances there was an absence of meals.

However, this was strongly denied by SSP Morris who said that the detainees received the same meal prepared for the police.

“We do not have much to do with a $300 that is paid to a concessionaire. However, the detainees there, for the most part, eat from the same pot that the police eat from on a daily basis,” he said.

When asked by the Jamaica Observer to describe the food, SSP Morris replied: “To be honest with you, for a bulk cooking it is one of the better bulk cooking that I have encountered in a long time. You can have lunch down there, you won't regret it.”

The police also justified the mass picking up of people who could not justify their reason for being in a particular space at a particular time.

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