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Gov't plans legal aid for cops involved in shoot-out with criminals

Jamaica partners with United States Customs in tackling crime

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, June 13, 2019

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SECURITY Minister Horace Chang says that the Government will be providing legal support in the future for police who are engaged in shoot-outs with criminals.

Dr Chang also announced in the House that Jamaica will ensure closer cooperation with US Customs, through an agreement under the Customs Mutual Assistance Agreements (CMAA).

US Customs and Border Protection has been using the model as a basis for negotiating CMAAs with other foreign administrations, since joining the Customs Cooperation Council (CCC) in 1970. Domestic and foreign courts recognise each agreement as a legal basis for wide-ranging cooperation.

The minister was responding in Parliament Tuesday to the resounding pleas for help from his colleagues on both sides of the House of Representatives, who appealed for support at either the level of the social intervention, led by the zones of special operations (ZOSOs) or the states of emergency (SOEs).

Opposition spokesman on national security, Fitz Jackson, led the call from the Opposition benches for discussions declaring more ZOSOs, or even SOEs in emergency responses in urgent cases.

“Minister you know you can call on me at any time. We are ready to work with you for Jamaica's sake…so I am pleading with you,” Jackson assured him.

Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte, who already has a ZOSO (Mount Salem) in her St James West Central constituency, noted that people have become afraid to walk the streets, which confirms that these are not normal time in the country.

“And if we fool ourselves into thinking that normal operations will suffice, we will really fool ourselves,” she added.

Member of Parliament for Clarendon North, Horace Dalley of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP), urged the government to declare a ZOSO in the town of May Pen.

“We are tired of it now, people want to walk free in May Pen (but) there is fear in the parish of Clarendon,” Dalley insisted.

So too did Opposition spokesman on finance, Mark Golding, who felt that the situation had gone beyond his control in certain sections of his St Andrew Southern constituency.

Chang said that in addition to spending $21 billion this year on capital expenditure to physically improve police stations and increase their technology, as well as providing new motor vehicles and improvment within the force, the ministry would be budgeting to assist police who are involved in shoot-outs to pay for their legal representation.

He said that the government will be creating a defence fund that will provide funding for the legal representation of police who are on duty when they are confronted with violence from criminals.

“Once we are assured it's not deliberate and that it is done within the line of duty, we expect to protect our policemen,” he said, noting that the new development will ensure that the police are not considered guilty and have to prove their innocence, but experience natural justice which requires that they be considered innocent until proven guilty.

In terms of the CMAA, Chang said that his ministry is awaiting a response from US Customs, after a lengthy, roundabout and tedious process which lasted for over a year.

He said that the process was completed when one of the major partners accepted a proposal from Jamaica's Attorney General as the correct route to follow.

“This kind of agreement with our partners is critical to the work of the security forces,” Chang pointed out.

The House of Representatives then unanimously voted for another 60-day extension of the ZOSOs in Denham Town, Kingston and Mount Salem in St James.


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