Mon | Oct 26, 2020

FLA exposing cops to harm, charges Rowe - Police Federation laments agency’s decision to deny several cops gun permits

Published:Sunday | September 27, 2020 | 12:16 AMLivern Barrett - Senior Staff Reporter
Shane Dalling, CEO of the Firearm Licensing Authority.
File Shane Dalling, CEO of the Firearm Licensing Authority.
Shane Dalling, CEO of the Firearm Licensing Authority.
Shane Dalling, CEO of the Firearm Licensing Authority.
left: Sergeant Patrae Rowe, chairman of the Jamaica Police Federation.
left: Sergeant Patrae Rowe, chairman of the Jamaica Police Federation.

With what are believed to have been coordinated attacks on the lives of police officers and their relatives last weekend, triggering the High Command to raise the threat level for cops to high, the Jamaica Police Federation is up in arms over the Firearms Licensing Authority’s (FLA) decision to deny a “high number” of cops permits for personal firearms.

Sergeant Patrae Rowe said the Police Federation, which represents the interests of cops up to the rank of inspector, is baffled by the number of applications being turned down on the grounds that they have not justified the need for one.

“We believe that it is completely absurd for police officers to be carrying out policing functions with police-issued firearms on a daily basis and are entrusted with the keep and care of firearms, but yet FLA is refusing members firearms,” he told The Sunday Gleaner.

In the last three weeks alone, 10 cops have complained to their union that they were refused permits for personal firearms, he told The Sunday Gleaner.

Rowe said the union is conducting an audit to determine how many cops were refused permits in the last year, but suggested that the figure for the past three weeks is reflective of the annual data.

“This is absolutely ridiculous and we believe that the actions of the FLA are exposing our members to additional vulnerabilities.”

While appreciative of measures being implemented by the top brass of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) to boost protection for cops, Rowe said it was “a work in progress”.

“There are gaps within the mechanisms to protect our members,” he said while declining to divulge details.

These gaps, according to Rowe, are widened because a “pretty high” number of cops are feeling exposed due to the FLA’s decisions.

Shane Dalling, chief executive officer of the FLA, declined to comment for this story.

The latest incidents triggering the high threat level alert took place two Fridays ago, starting when Clifton Green parked his Mazda motor car and was about to enter his home in the rural St Catherine community of Riversdale just before 8 p.m.

One of Green’s sons is a detective assigned to the police Gang Unit, which is getting ready to take down one of the country’s most feared criminal syndicates.

The 67-year-old justice of the peace and retired correctional officer never made it into his house. He was shot several times by armed thugs, who were apparently waiting for him inside his yard, a police report suggests.

“Green drove his Mazda motor car into his yard when several gunshots were heard,” said the report released by the JCF.

“The police were summoned and upon their arrival, the body of Green was seen lying on the ground with multiple gunshot wounds to the upper body and left leg.”

The slaying is one of three incidents involving members of the Gang Unit that occurred minutes apart on the night of September 18, multiple law enforcement sources told The Sunday Gleaner.

The Gang Unit is embedded in the JCF’s Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Division (C-TOC). Its mandate is to use the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisation) Act – widely referred to as the anti-gang law – to go after some of the country’s most dangerous criminal syndicates.

“There is a compelling theory that all three attacks are connected. It’s an attack on the Gang Unit to silence the police,” one senior investigator insisted.

Quick-thinking saves detective

In the second incident, eerily similar to the attack on Green, a quick-thinking male detective narrowly escaped death after he was reportedly surprised by gunmen as he arrived at his home in Spanish Town, also in St Catherine.

“He saw certain movements and immediately sprung into action. He took whatever action he had to then tek weh himself from him yard,” the source said in reference to the exchange of gunfire between the cop and his attackers.

The third incident involved a female detective, who had completed her shift and was driving to her St Andrew home, when she discovered that her car was being followed.

“She had to put dung some serious driving to elude them,” the source said.

“They are all from the same unit and work at the same place, involved in the same cases,” one source revealed.

They are believed to be the same incidents the Police High Command alluded to last Saturday when the threat level around cops was elevated to high.

“The Jamaica Constabulary Force High Command has raised the threat level for violence against officers to high following what is believed to be three separate but coordinated attempts on the lives of police officers and their families last night,” the JCF said in a statement released by its communications arm.

Acting Assistant Commissioner Anthony McLaughlin, who heads C-TOC, refused to disclose details of the “coordinated” attacks, but said there are signs that they are linked to one of the major cases being investigated by the unit.

“We are not able to say specifically which one yet, but we suspect that it has to do with one of the gang cases we are doing,” he said.

Rowe said based on his understanding of the situation, “the threat is extremely serious”.

“We believe that you have people in the underworld who are sufficiently savvy to carry out attacks against our members. We do not assume that all criminals are sitting on street corners with low IQs,” said Rowe.

McLaughlin disclosed that investigators are “following a line of enquiry” into the three incidents, but admitted, “we have a lot more work to do”.

He revealed, too, that measures have been put in place to ensure the safety of all members of the Gang Unit, but declined to discuss them publicly.

“That would defeat the purpose.”

Rank-and-file cops, Rowe said, are already taking additional steps at home and at work to protect themselves and their families.

“We are reviewing the security mechanism around each police officer, especially those at high-risk locations. Where there is a need to engage administrative processes to ensure that officers are either issued with additional firearms or ammunitions, those requests are being made,” he said.