Beryllium experience leaves municipal officer in fear

PANIC has heightened for one municipal officer following the series of attacks on Beryllium security teams in recent times.

The officer, based on Jamaica’s north coast, lamented the need for more advocacy for weapons for municipal officers from the heads of the various municipalities across the island, especially now that criminals are “more brazen and barefaced” .

“We can be armed but the stakeholders and politicians are not granting that permission. They are not doing it. And even [if] a man has his firearm, they are telling him that he is not supposed to use it on the job. If they use it, you know that they are on their own; he will not have any backing and parish council will not do anything any at all. They would have to find their own lawyer,” the municipal officer who requested anonymity told the Jamaica Observer.

The man said he is certain that all municipal officers have become more paranoid.

“Of course!” he exclaimed.

“It is dangerous; it can be life and death. It’s not only security and Beryllium people getting attacked; attacks are coming in all different forms because if we come under a big, serious attack just pray to God that the driver for the vehicle you are in can drive so you can tactically retreat wherever.”

He pointed to several incidents in which he was assaulted by citizens when on duty.

“Man pull cutlass on me one day. Another vendor attacked me and I had to deal with him a way. It even reached court… I had to press charges and lock him up. You operate in fear most of the times,” he related.

According to the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, municipal enforcement entails the enforcement of local laws and retaining civic order. Over the past 10 years municipal police units have been established in each council and have demonstrated that they provide an “invaluable service” as an arm of these councils.

The ministry also said that, “The deployment of Municipal Police Training Programme forms part of the local government reform process wherein the intent is to ensure that each local government authority has the requisite trained and authorised personnel to administer all the laws and regulations falling under their jurisdiction.”

On New Year’s Eve in 2022 a municipal officer and his uncle were murdered on the Friendship main road in St James. The incident claimed the lives of 34-year-old Jermaine Evans, who had been based at the St James Municipal Corporation (SJMC) since 2018, and his uncle, 46-year-old Peter Stewart. Evans was attacked by armed men while travelling to work along with Stewart. Both men were pronounced dead at hospital.

In 2022, just under a week before Christmas, a municipal officer attached to the Clarendon Municipal Corporation had to be hospitalised after he was hit in the head with a stone while carrying out a vending control operation.

The incident was captured on video and created a stir. Reports are that the officer was part of a team patrolling the streets with members of the JCF when the stone was used to hit him in the head. When the incident occurred the team was telling vendors selling illegally on Main Street to relocate. When the officer was struck he immediately fell to the ground. It is alleged that the stone was thrown by a vendor.

Also, when municipal officers visited Olympic Gardens in St Andrew to maintain order at a garage that was being operated on the roadway in 2021, they were ambushed by members of the community.

That same year, armed men shot at municipal officers from the St James Municipal Corporation (SJMC) who went to entertainment hot spot Pier One in Montego Bay to remove a vehicle. The thugs shot at the wrecker that the officers were using to remove the vehicle while they were inside. Shortly after, a municipal police truck was set ablaze.

The officer told the Sunday Observer that while on duty carrying out various tasks, they are left “to the hands of the criminals”.

“We carry out a lot of operations… countless operations. Whatever happens just happens, that’s how I see it. There’s nothing to protect ourselves while on duty out there, to be honest. Couple years ago, we came under attack in Ochi [Ocho Rios] when we were carrying out an operation and a female officer was hit in her private area with a rock,” he lamented.

“We confiscate countless goods so we can’t go in the road and act like you are a coward; if you act like coward you will get mash up. You have to go out there stern and know that you are doing your work,” he continued.