Taking a toll on the police?Friday, October 29, 2021
BY HORACE HINES
Minister of National Security and Deputy Prime Minister Dr Horace Chang says that while the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) has the authority to travel without being charged on the toll road in the administration of their duties, it is not routine for the police.
“The Jamaica Defence Force, they don't pay no fees if they have to move through the country whether it's rail fees, toll fees, or boat fees. It's a part of the JDF law. It's a legacy issue as well. It comes out of the original laws. If you go to the UK it is the same thing,” Dr Chang told the Jamaica Observer's Auto magazine.
He, however, noted that the police are refunded if they use their money to utilise the service of the toll in the line of duty.
“The police travel off the toll because the police have to be able to interact with stations along the route. If they go on the toll road, they get the money for it,” Dr Chang noted.
But, speaking to reporters in Montego Bay on Tuesday, chairman of the Jamaica Police Federation Corporal Rohan James complained that the cops are not reimbursed whenever they foot the bill to use the toll.
“It has been brought to our knowledge that several members, in the execution of their duties, have used the toll road and they would have paid the toll fee and are yet to be reimbursed. So we are hoping that in light of what transpired that this is an adversity and good will come out of it in that the minister (of national security) will now use his powers to alleviate any such recurrences,” the head of the police federation argued.
The security minister, however, argued that measures are in place for cops to be compensated if they pay toll fee in the line of duty.
“That [non-payment] might be an administrative problem. I can't comment on that. If they pay their own money they have to be repaid,” he said.
The police federation chairman was speaking in the wake of Monday's motor vehicle crash which claimed the lives of Constable Orlando Irons and Bishop Dr Kevin Smith, head of Pathways International Kingdom Restoration Ministries, and the injury of two cops, while transporting Smith from Montego Bay to Kingston to face charges of murder and illegal possession of firearm. The accident occurred on the Linstead bypass in St Catherine.
Corporal James contended that if the police officers had not taken the Linstead bypass route, they would have had to absorb the cost for passage on the toll.
Consequently, Corporal James has commenced dialogue with the security minister to address the issue.
In fact, James argues that the security minister should use his power to provide the cops with the right to use the toll route “unfettered”.
“I am appealing to them to invoke their powers and to ensure that we have an unfettered access in the interest of national security,” Corporal James told Auto.
“I know that it is not just a matter of transporting prisoners but several robberies have been committed and police have to stop pursuing criminals for that very same reason,” he said.
But Dr Chang argued that while the cops would enjoy the right of free passage during a state of emergency, he does not see it necessary at this time.
“You can issue an order in a state of emergency...You can assume some emergency powers but not in a regular situation. We would have to negotiate that and pay a lump sum for the police. I don't think there's a need to change that now,” he added.