Cops collect party tax in Kitson Town - Bar owners and promoters claim police demand money and liquor from them to allow events to take place
Some members of the police force are being accused of demanding thousands of dollars from residents of Kitson Town in St Catherine before allowing them to keep any entertainment event.
But the cops say the charge is baseless and is being levelled by persons upset about a strict enforcement of a ban on entertainment events following a shooting incident in the community.
"We stopped issuing permits in the area, because of an incident that took place at Kings Land early this year," Detective Sergeant Basil Green of the Guanaboa Vale Police Station told The Sunday Gleaner.
"Some wanted men were in that area and engaged the security force in a shoot-out, and men were killed and high-powered weapons recovered," added Green.
However, some residents of Kitson Town are adamant that this is not the full story. They say due to the harsh economic times, some of the proprietors of the several bars which dot the small community have had to explore various means to try to make money.
These bar operators have introduced entertainment events such as sit-ins, domino tournaments and round robins. The round robins, in particular, see music being played well into the night, as each member of the pool goes to the other's establishment to lend support.
In order to keep these round robins, persons have to get permits to stage these events, bar operators have to get the green light from the Guanaboa Vale police, the police divisional head quarters, and pay a $3,000 fee to the St Catherine Parish Council.
"The round robins went on for a while and one and two persons would take their chances and keep it without the permit," said a senior resident of the community, who was an original member of the pool of persons who kept round robins.
The police, however, took the decision to stop granting permits for these types of events earlier this year following the shooting incident which Green described.
But the bar operators would not let the lack of a permit stop them and continued their round robins. They claim this was when some cops saw an opportunity to make extra cash and started to extort them.
"The police started to say they want money. Everybody agreed and say alright, no big thing. They started out demanding $3,000," the resident charged.
"Then they started now to demand money, and any form of music you play you must tell them and they have to give you the go-ahead, and you know you have to let off something (give them a money).
"For example, if you are playing a set at your bar or any little thing, like you have a little birth-night party they come around and say you never tell them about it and they have to get a money; that is the behaviour," charged the resident.
He singled out one female district constable who he said was the mastermind behind the extortion.
"She is the one who takes the initiative to find out where the round robin a keep tonight; she all call round. I used to be involved in the round robin, but had to stop because of the whole ... thing. To me it is too much. You going to pay the police dem your money, and even though you pay them your money when they come they want a barrage a liquor to drink. So when you work it out it doesn't really pay you."
Another bar owner claimed she has paid money to a district constable on more than one occasion.
"They sent a guy to mi for money after I had kept a round robin and I gave the guy $3,000. He left and came back and handed me his phone; mi hear 'a wah kind a money that?' That a money?' I said 'you should give thanks for small mercies, when I give you $3,000 I have goods to buy back fi the bar and bills to pay, so give thanks fi di $3000'."
According to the bar owner, since she refused to pay the additional funds demanded by the district constable the two have been at odds.
The bar operator noted that one week after the incident she was served with a summons for breaching the Noise Abatement Act and is scheduled to appear in the Spanish Town Resident Magistrate's Court on Tuesday.
While the district constable accused by the residents refused to entertain questions from The Sunday Gleaner, Green was adamant that neither he nor any of his colleagues has extorted money from the bar operators.
The police sergeant said because some members of the force are strict in shutting down the events being kept without a permit, when some cops give a 'bly' to these operators and allow the events to take place, they are accused of having collected money.