Wed | Jun 7, 2023

Clarendon cops forced to take taxis on the job

Published:Friday | February 10, 2023 | 1:52 AMOlivia Brown/Gleaner Writer
Superintendent Carlos Russell, head of the Clarendon police.
Superintendent Carlos Russell, head of the Clarendon police.

Despite multibillion-dollar investments in the procurement of service vehicles over the past seven years, the Frankfield police are currently forced to hail taxicabs to respond to emergencies.

The resource shortage has delivered a black eye to the Clarendon Police Division, with Deputy Mayor Clive Mundle raising alarm about the deficit.

Mundle, who is also councillor for the Frankfield political division, argued that it was not practical for personnel to be travelling by taxi after receiving distress calls.

The Frankfield division comprises approximately six to eight communities, he said.

Mundle also hinted that the dependence on public transport could compromise police action.

“The same taxi man that you give a ticket, how do you treat that when you have to call them when you get a call, or you have to wait on the jeep from Chapelton or the jeep from May Pen to come up?” said Mundle, who was speaking during Thursday's monthly sitting of the Clarendon Municipal Corporation.

“If we are serious about fighting crime, we need to give the police the tools that they need to fight crime.”

Head of the Clarendon police, Superintendent Carlos Russell, acknowledged the problem but said that the vehicle crisis was not unique to Frankfield. Russell said the Hayes Police Station is also without a vehicle.

The Gleaner understands that the Longville Park Police Station also has mobility challenges.

“We are having some issues with transportation in Clarendon. I know the Frankfield unit has been down for about two months now. We have been trying to get it rectified. It has been sent to the transport and repairs department and back, and it still has the same problem,” Russell informed the councillors.

“I was told it was an electrical problem. Now I'm hearing that it can be a transmission problem,'' said Russell.

The police commander said that the mobility woes were compounded by the age of the fleet, with some vehicles breaking down within a day of being repaired.

The Holness administration has boasted of its capital expenditure on national security being unprecedented, including major vehicle purchases since fiscal year 2016-2017.

“These vehicles are outfitted with the full suite of modern policing equipment and systems, which has never been done before in the history of the JCF. Since that time, 1,368 vehicles have been procured at a cost of approximately J$4.3 billion, which include more than 150 bikes for the Quick Response teams,” National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang said in an op-ed published in The Sunday Gleaner of January 22, 2023.

Attempts to get comment about the Clarendon hiccups from Chang or Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson were unsuccessful as calls to their cell phones went unanswered Thursday.

But Mundle called for urgent intervention from Chang, adding that long distances between communities already made effective policing difficult.

“Can you imagine somebody up in Frankfield, or way up in James Hill, commit a crime? By the time the jeep come from Chapelton or May Pen, the person already gone about their business, or if them a kill somebody, the somebody already dead long time. This is not just practical,” the deputy mayor said.

Councillor for the Hayes division, Scean Barnswell, raised the vexed issue of the failure of O'Brien's International Car Sales and Rentals to honour the deadline to supply the Ministry of National Security 200 pre-owned vehicles to the JCF.

The company failed to deliver all the vehicles on schedule, with at least 50 vehicles stuck on the wharf up to late 2021 - four years after the initial roll-out. More than half of the $427-million contract had been paid.

“We lose count of it, but we knew we had an ageing police fleet, and that is why it was planned to replace those vehicles with the used cars, but we don't even know what happened, so we can't be saying on one hand we need the police to work, and we not giving them the tools or resources to protect us or fight crime,” said Barnswell.