Commissioner wants states of emergency

Western News

Commissioner wants states of emergency

BY HORACE HINES
Staff reporter
hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, November 23, 2020

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — If Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson had his way, the states of public emergency (SOEs), which were lifted ahead of the September 3 General Election, would be still in effect.

“If it was left to me then they (SOEs) wouldn't be gone. And you know why? They wouldn't be gone because the circumstances say when you can get a 70 per cent drop in murders (in St James) and it's still over 100, then you have a problem,” the police commissioner said while fielding questions from reporters during a press briefing at the police station in Freeport, Montego Bay, following a tour of police stations in St James on Friday.

He objected the notion that states of emergency required more members of the security forces to operate, arguing to the contrary.

“Again, this is the myth that is being perpetrated. It takes more assets to do the same things without a state of emergency. It means now that everytime the JDF [Jamaica Defence Force] goes out we have to find a police officer to send with them. So we have to do what was happening before plus find a police officer. So it reduces the flexibility as well. So if they get a tip they (army personnel) can't move unless they have a police officer turn up and join them,” Major General Anderson said.

National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang, who led the tour of the police stations, argued that the SOEs were not intended to last forever. He pointed out that despite their successes, the need for special security measures still exists.

“Government doesn't intend to have states of emergency for a lifetime... the police is not seeking for that time. What we are saying is the level of inter-gang war and criminal activities are longstanding, they are endemic, they are chronic and it takes time to overcome all of these if we are going to provide public safety and good order we need special security measures. We don't need all those powers in normal stations,” Dr Chang argued.

“We have kept ourselves together yet we have the highest murder rate in a democratic society. The highest!”

Commissioner Anderson also reinforced the point that the enhanced security measure wasn't intended to be permanent.

But he was quick to underscore that in St James alone it resulted in a 70 per cent drop in murders.

“It wasn't intended forever, but rather than look at a timeline I think we should focus on how many of our people are being killed and is it acceptable and does the measure work? Well, of course our works. Seventy per cent drop in a year, it absolutely does work,” Anderson said.

The security minister underscored the stark contrast of gun-related killings between Jamaica, with a population of three million and the United Kingdom with over 80 million.

“The UK in one (last) year they have had 33 gun killings in a population of 80 million... I think between England, Wales and Scotland. We have 33 in one week. And 90 per cent of those murders are being committed with firearms and not a little sidearm — men touting AK-47s, M-16s and not just the regular M-16s, AR-15 army label operation,” he emphasised.

“That's the condition we have and therefore to say we don't have a state that requires a state of public emergency, is to me a no-brainer. But there are those who feel otherwise. Quite sincere to you, I feel the people who make those comments don't have respect for lives being lost. Government's responsibility is to protect the lives of Jamaicans. The first foundation for safety that they can move about safely without feel threatened for their lives,” the commissioner said.

The tour, which included the top brass of the Jamaica Constabulary Force in the Area One Police Division and the Jamaica Defence Force members, stopped at police stations in the Coral Gardens and Mount Salem before ending the tour at the Freeport facility.


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