Sat | Nov 28, 2020

New special unit to replace Mobile Reserve

Published:Tuesday | June 4, 2019 | 12:35 AMCarl Gilchrist/Gleaner Writer

In response to a call by Opposition spokesman on National Security Fitz Jackson for the Government to halt plans to disband the Mobile Reserve, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said last week that a new special unit would be trained to fill the breach.

Speaking at the JCF’s 76th Annual Joint Central Conferences at Moon Palace Jamaica in Ocho Rios last Wednesday, Jackson said dismantling the Mobile Reserve, a robust special operations unit within the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), would erode the confidence and trust among members of the JCF.

“Last June, the country was told of Mobile West. Nine months later, you say the Mobile Reserve is disbanded. I want to implore you to rethink that one,” Jackson said, addressing National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang, who was present at the meeting.

“There is a better way,” Jackson suggested to loud applause from hundreds of delegates.

Jackson said the right solution doesn’t rest in the minds of a few persons, but is available through consultation.

Acknowledging the need for a special unit, Holness said if persons believed that the disbanding of the Mobile Reserve meant the break-up of a special force, they were misled.

“The special operations unit will start off with this doctrine – how special force is to be used. Government can’t unleash special force without accountability because the duty of the Government is to protect citizens,” the prime minister said.

“So we are going to rebuild special operations. Members who were part of the Mobile Reserve would be free to reapply, reintegrate and go through special training,” he added, pointing out that the new unit would be given adequate resources to carry out its functions.

The Mobile Reserve found itself mired in controversy in late April after three off-duty cops assigned to the unit were implicated in the murder of businessman Sheldon Daley in Chedwin Park, St Catherine, and an ensuing car chase and gun battle with a cop who witnessed the incident. When the dust settled, a visitor to the island, Kevron Burrell, and one of the cops were dead.

Police-issued firearms were found in the crashed car in which the off-duty cops were travelling. The JCF also confirmed that the getaway vehicle was an unmarked police car, raising questions in several quarters about off-duty cops’ access to police resources.

The two surviving officers implicated are facing a range of charges, including murder.