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It's unfair to cops

Security minister livid that all shootings by police are being counted together

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-Large
halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang has chided critics who have blasted members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) over their use of deadly fire in recent times.

Chang has also questioned the wisdom of grouping all fatal shootings by members of the security forces into one category.

“There is a continuous narrative that the police in Jamaica are brutal and seek to kill individual criminals. That is not the mission of the police that we have today. However, they are trained, and if criminals engage them in shoot-outs they will respond [with] their training to protect themselves and to defend themselves and the citizens of this country.

“Indeed we note that there have been increasing attacks on the police… but the objective of the police is to professionally find evidence… apprehend, prosecute and lock them away,” said Chang during a media briefing on Thursday.

As proof Chang pointed to a recent incident in St James, where members of a police team were quick on the scene after two men had committed a shooting. The men fired on cops and were shot and injured and taken to hospital.

Chang noted that criminals operating across the island are heavily armed and do not discriminate in their attacks.

“At times we have seen a deliberate and orchestrated attack on police officers. We do not condone the behaviour but we understand why and we are prepared and we are not allowing it to deter us from our fight,” said Chang as he argued that reports of security persons involved in shootings must be better contextualised.

“In a country where there are over 3,000 shootings and 1,000 murders [yearly] there will be shootings [by members of the security forces], and I am concerned that in reporting civilian deaths we combine the death of a Prekeh (Delano “Prekeh Boy” Wilmot), who can only be described as a terrorist in any language or by any definition, in the same column as a citizen who was shot almost by accident,” said Chang.

He pointed to the case of Susan Bogle, a 44-year-old disabled woman who was fatally shot in August Town, St Andrew, in May in circumstances yet to be determined, as one of those which should not be included in shootings such as those of Prekeh Boy, even if investigations determine that she was killed by a member of the security forces.

“It is a completely different event than the killing of Prekeh, a terrorist who captured a community, killed dozens of people and extorted and raped members of a community,” added Chang.
The 25-year-old Prekeh Boy was one of Jamaica's most wanted for more than four years.

He was the reputed leader of the feared Retrieve Gang (or Prekeh Gang) and was listed as wanted following the murder of Mark Williams in June 2016.

The police later linked the gang to no fewer than 12 murders and 11 shootings, including an incident in which two members of the Jamaica Defence Force were shot in an operation to capture him.

After escaping numerous dragnets Prekeh Boy was fatally shot dead by members of a joint police/military team during an operation in Cambridge, St James, in July and Chang is livid that his killing would be among those to stain the reputation of Jamaica's security forces internationally.

“When all of them [killings by the security forces] are put on the same page and it is published in the international news… the narrative and the message of a police force that is brutal and insensitive is being conveyed. It is totally incorrect,” declared Chang.

“Young men trained, committed to justice and law and order are being asked to make immediate decisions, split-second decisions to protect Jamaica, and protect their lives… it is not right to combine the shooting of a Prekeh… as just civilians shot,” the security minister argued.