Construction of residence for Specialized Operations West to start next financial yearThursday, July 29, 2021
BY HORACE HINES
MONTEGO BAY, St James - Security Minister Dr Horace Chang has disclosed that work, delayed as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, to construct barracks to house the Specialized Operations West unit is expected to commence during the next financial year.
In 2018, Dr Chang announced that $1.9 billion had been allocated for the construction of the new police complex on lands near the Montego Hills Police Station, and also announced plans to upgrade the physical structure to the police station.
“COVID put us back but we should begin the next financial year because we did some basic planning, engineering and some design and advertised for planning services. So after that, we will be contracting. The land is there so we are going to contract and start the ball a rolling,” the security minister, who is also Member of Parliament for St James North Western, told the Jamaica Observer West.
“The police station that is there we are going to fix it up as well. But, essentially, it is a police barracks, a modern one designed with proper recreational facilities and all of that. The concept was put together, it is a police residence, but the station will be there as well and it will have facilities improved. The station will have some regional facilities as well, but the residence will be the key of it with the 250 residents.”
The police unit, which was initially to be dubbed Mobile Reserve West, has undergone a name change and will be manned by personnel from the new entity that replaced the decades-old Mobile Reserve, Dr Chang explained.
Speaking at the recent opening of the Mount Salem Police Station in St James, Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson also announced that plans are are now back on the table to establish the police barracks in Montego Hills.
“It is a process of getting perhaps 200 to 250 specialised, specially trained police officers, similar to what is in Kingston, similar to what persons saw, probably on social media, in Oakland. Our SWAT team here in St James [will] respond rapidly to evolving, emerging situations or ongoing situations,” Major General Anderson said.
The upgraded Mount Salem Police Station was built by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) at a cost of approximately $47.6 million, with funding from the European Union (EU). It will serve 9,050 residents in Mount Salem and surrounding areas.
The police station has private interview rooms and other amenities, such as an armoury, waiting areas, public restrooms and parking.
Construction was undertaken as part of the build phase of the zone of special operations (ZOSO), now in place in the community, and is in keeping with the thrust by the Ministry of National Security to rehabilitate police stations across the island.
Meanwhile, Major General Anderson used the occasion to heap praises on commander of the St James Police Division, Superintendent Vernon Ellis, and his team for the outstanding role of the Response Team, a special motorcycle squad, in the reduction of crimes in downtown Montego Bay.
“What we have seen, subsequent to them operating in downtown Montego Bay, is the number of violent incidents drop off dramatically since this team has been operating within downtown St James,” the police commissioner remarked.
He also hailed the team for not only carrying out hardcore crime fighting but their role in transporting homework to students across the hills of the parish during peak of the COVID outbreak.
“They (students) didn't have any Internet, so we had to get homework to them and back to the school. And these same guys who are doing the hardest form of policing, being willing to take on the most dangerous of bad guys, were also the same team that could carry homework, and that is representative of the police force, and police officers that we're talking about, which is highly professional well-trained officers,” said Anderson.