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Police death benefit cases pile up

Erica Virtue, Staff Reporter

THE families of more than 100 policemen who were killed in the line of duty have still not received death benefits. Some have been waiting for nearly nine years for the benefits and now face destitution.

A fed-up Police Federation which represents rank and file members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) say they have had to find money for meals, education and even mortgages for some of these families.

The Federation said that of the 100 outstanding cases, all the questions surrounding some 40 of them have been settled but they are still awaiting at least $1 million in pay-out from the state.

Federation chairman, Inspector Neville Knight said last week that many officers and families of deceased security personnel are now openly hostile to the state for its tardiness in compensating families who are suffering.

"We have several cases where police men have died in shoot-outs with gunmen. The policeman is there because he is a part of the operation. What proof can the Government want to determine if he died in the line of duty. What was he there for, to watch?" the angry chairman said last week.

According to Inspector Knight, the federation has rescued several families over the years, and could do so much and no more.

Admitting that investigations have been inadequate in several instances, he said there were clear-cut cases which should have been settled a long time ago.

No excuse

He also said investigations often took time, because officials had to make sure that all children and spouses were found.

He admitted too, that some of the police officers often made it difficult for their families when they did not provide documentation on all their children. But that was no excuse for the delays, he said.

"In my opinion, if the state is investigating a clear case where someone dies in the line of duty, then it can only mean one thing to me. Somebody is trying to find a reason to delay making payments."

Inspector Knight said it was in the Government's best interest to settle the cases as quickly as possible, or it would find itself with a huge backlog, if police officers continued to die at an average 14 per year.

He pointed out that many families had fallen on hard times, and the inordinate delays have forced many to seek alternate accommodation which has made it difficult for them to be found.

That has contributed to delays in completing investigations.

He said, however, he was confident that all the cases would be settled under the watch of the new Minister of National Security, Dr. Peter Phillips.

Thirteen killed

Meanwhile, 13 police personnel and one soldier were killed last year. Homicide detectives said that they have moved swiftly to investigate those cases, have completed more than 50 per cent of them and were making arrests.

The Constabulary Communi-cation Network said that no security personnel has been killed since the start of this year.

Among those killed last year were District Constable Os-bourne Thompson; Constable Carlington Bucknor; Inspector Everett Daley; Constable Michael Sutherland; Woman Inspector Patricia Pryce; Det. Constable Selvin English; Woman Constable Karen Tingle; District Constable Colin Thomas; District Constable Errol Stephenson; Constable Clyde Morgan; and Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) soldier, Corporal Mark Henry.

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