Vexed municipal officers want greater protection

On New Year’s Eve in 2021 a municipal officer and his uncle were murdered on the Friendship main road in St James.

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.

And so municipal police personnel, who asked not to be named, are irate and frustrated by the threats they face daily, and are reiterating calls for more representation from the heads of the various municipalities.

One officer told the Jamaica Observer that they are left unprotected without weapons when not accompanied by members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) on operations.

“We keep talking about this issue and everybody turn a blind eye. Nobody don’t care, and nobody will care until a man take a machete one day and chop off one a wi head. That is how I see it. In the streets we get cuss out for simple, simple things — and that is because the average Jamaican see wi as thief. As a matter of fact, they see us as thief and police in one, so we cyaa win,” the man said.

“Generally, people already see wi as di enemy. You will get an order fi all go at a location to do some work, you see a man in a spot that he shouldn’t be in and you have to think twice before you do nothing. Times change… a man [will] lick off yuh head right inna the crowd and leave you pon di grung.”

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” to an arm of the councils.

The tragic 2022 incident claimed the lives of 34-year-old Jermaine Evans, who was 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.

The most recent incident in Clarendon 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.

Addressing journalists on the “unfortunate” matter, later that evening, mayor of May Pen Winston Maragh said a scan was supposed to be done on the officer’s brain “to see if there is any fracture and so on”.

Another officer told the Sunday Observer that the municipal uniform is a magnet for hatred and disrespect.

“It hurt mi heart every time mi hear seh a next municipal officer get attacked. We are not on the road stopping nobody food. We are sent out to promote law and order,” he lamented.

He added that the majority of the resentment aimed at municipalities is because they stifle lawlessness.

“Jamaican people love to have them own way so much that they feel like them suppose to sell anything, anywhere, and at anytime so when you are doing your job now, it is almost like you are a threat. But there is not a threa — the only threat is the unruly people who don’t want to abide by rules and love push badness,” he said

He continued: “You are left to the hands of the criminals. As a special district constable, you have to be fully trained.

The local government ministry said, “The deployment of the 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.”

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

Armed men shot at municipal officers from the SJMC who went to entertainment hot spot Pier 1 in Montego Bay last year to remove a vehicle. The thugs opened fire 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.

There are many incidents that go unreported as well, a third officer related.

“Nuff nuff things don’t reach a supervisor or even make the news. When a man tell you to your face that he will go for his gun and shoot you and all you have is a baton, what do you do?” he asked.

“This is a dangerous job. We have nothing to defend ourselves; we just go out by faith. A vendor was able to throw a stone and get away… don’t you think another will try again? You can’t tell who do what in all a downtown crowd. These are the types of things we talk about all the time.”

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