AU­THOR­I­TIES MOVE TO

halt crim­i­nal use of tac­ti­cal gear

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Corey Robin­son Staff Re­porter corey.robin­son@glean­erjm.com

AU­THOR­I­TIES WITHIN the se­cu­rity forces are do­ing ev­ery­thing in their power to stem the deadly prac­tice of crim­i­nals wear­ing po­lice- and mil­i­tary­type gear, pos­ing as of­fi­cers of the law as they carry out their wan­ton killings and other crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties.

At the same time, the Ja­maica De­fence Force (JDF) is again de­cry­ing the ease with which the pub­lic can ac­cess mil­i­tary-type cam­ou­flage ma­te­rial, re­veal­ing that de­spite ro­bust in­ves­ti­ga­tion, it is still un­sure how re­cently con­fis­cated mil­i­tary equip­ment landed in crim­i­nal hands.

Five per­sons are now be­hind bars after the Claren­don po­lice last month seized a large quan­tity of army fa­tigues, cam­ou­flage, po­lice vests, back­packs and rounds fit­ting for the M16 as­sault ri­fle in the com­mu­nity of Farm in the par­ish. The items were dis­cov­ered when the cops swooped down on a re­ported car-steal­ing ring.

That same week, the Claren­don po­lice also seized a cache of po­lice and army para­pher­na­lia that they said were be­ing used by crim­i­nals in the Buc­knor com­mu­nity, near May Pen. The items in­cluded a JDF bal­lis­tic hel­met, a pullover, a pair of hand­cuffs, masks, and three rounds of am­mu­ni­tion, and were de­scribed by Deputy Su­per­in­ten­dent of Po­lice Hor­net Wil­liams as one of the ma­jor chal­lenges be­ing en­dured by po­lice in Claren­don.

‘NOTH­ING NEW’

“Given the rel­a­tive ease with which the pub­lic can ac­cess such uni­forms, as well as the lack of any dis­tin­guish­ing fea­tures on the ma­te­rial, it is very dif­fi­cult to say with any cer­tainty where they orig­i­nated,” ex­plained Ma­jor Basil Jar­rett, JDF me­dia af­fairs of­fi­cer.

How­ever, Jar­rett said the deadly phe­nom­e­non was “noth­ing new”.

“Over the years, it has be­come in­creas­ingly easy for mil­i­tary uni­form, kit and equip­ment to end up in the hands of crim­i­nals,” he told The

Sun­day Gleaner. “This is due to a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, such as mil­i­tary sur­plus gear be­ing dumped into the con­sumer mar­ket when over­seas mil­i­taries ei­ther re­tire them from ser­vice or up­grade to the newer dig­i­tal pat­terns.”

Jar­rett, who last week came un­der heat from the pub­lic as to whether the seized uni­forms orig­i­nated from be­hind JDF walls, de­scribed this as one of the rea­sons the JDF made a switch from the more cus­tom­ary black and green cam­ou­flage uni­forms to the ones the sol­diers now sport.

MARCH PEN ROAD AT­TACK

Five per­sons, in­clud­ing three chil­dren, were slaugh­tered when men re­port­edly dressed in po­lice at­tire, and who iden­ti­fied them­selves as po­lice, barged into a March Pen Road house in St Cather­ine, tied up its oc­cu­pants and sprayed them with bul­lets be­fore set­ting the house ablaze.

One al­leged eye­wit­ness was re­ported as say­ing that: “Mi see dem inna po­lice vest. Some a dem have on mask, some a dem don’t. When mi come out, dem see mi and fire shot [but] mi es­cape.”

The wit­ness said res­i­dents ran for their lives as screams echoed from the in­ferno nearby.

Po­lice have since ar­rested and charged Mar­lon Camp­bell, who they iden­ti­fied as the ma­jor sus­pect in the killings. Camp­bell was said to be re­lated to the vic­tims and was handed over to the Po­lice High Com­mand by Bishop Rowan Ed­wards.

His ar­rest has brought some ap­pease­ment to res­i­dents, who feared reprisals, but the ordeal they en­dured on Oc­to­ber 9 will for­ever be etched in the minds of the March Pen Road com­mu­nity.

Se­nior Su­per­in­ten­dent Stephanie Lind­say, head of the Cor­po­rate Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Unit (CCU), told The

Sun­day Gleaner that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion was launched into the Claren­don seizures, and that it found no ev­i­dence that the items be­longed to ei­ther the JDF or the Ja­maica Con­stab­u­lary Force (JCF).

“The ma­te­rial used to make the stan­dard po­lice shirt is ex­clu­sively or­dered by the JCF and is treated as a re­stricted item, along with all other items of uni­form. This ma­te­rial is not sold in stores,” said Lind­say.

“The JCF has stan­dard iden­ti­fi­able ac­cou­trements, such as the reg­u­la­tion num­ber badge, the po­lice’s iden­ti­fi­ca­tion card and other items which can help to guide the pub­lic in iden­ti­fy­ing a mem­ber.”

She ad­mit­ted that while the JCF has a strict pol­icy gov­ern­ing the re­turn and ex­change of uni­forms, it is very un­likely, but pos­si­ble, that some para­pher­na­lia be­ing used by crim­i­nals orig­i­nate from within the con­fines of the JCF.

“We don’t have any re­port or ev­i­dence of that hap­pen­ing. We do have a ro­bust sys­tem of checks and bal­ances to make it dif­fi­cult for per­sons to do that,” said Lind­say.

After the 2010 West Kingston in­cur­sion, when gun­men loyal to for­mer strong­man Christo­pher ‘Dudus’ Coke dressed in army fa­tigues en­gaged the se­cu­rity forces in high­pow­ered gun bat­tles, the mil­i­tary opted to change its of­fi­cial gear on Jan­uary 15, 2015.

Jar­rett said that the new JDF uni­forms are not only less costly, but they im­proved bat­tle­field adapt­abil­ity. The old uni­forms were sys­tem­at­i­cally re­turned, he said, and are be­ing used by re­cruits in New­cas­tle.

After the 2010 West Kingston in­cur­sion, when gun­men loyal to for­mer strong­man Christo­pher ‘Dudus’ Coke dressed in army fa­tigues en­gaged the se­cu­rity forces in high-pow­ered gun bat­tles, the mil­i­tary opted to change its of­fi­cial gear on Jan­uary 15, 2015, to the new dig­i­tal com­bat uni­form. Five per­sons are now be­hind bars after the Claren­don po­lice last month seized a large quan­tity of army fa­tigues, cam­ou­flage, po­lice vests, back­packs and rounds fit­ting for the M16 as­sault ri­fle in the com­mu­nity of Farm in the par­ish.

The Ja­maica De­fence Force is de­cry­ing the ease with which the pub­lic can ac­cess mil­i­tary-type cam­ou­flage ma­te­rial, such as this one found in fab­ric stores.

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