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Bunting wants firearm watchdog to police cops

Published:Friday | February 19, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

PETER BUNTING, the opposition spokesman on national security, wants the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) to be given auditing powers for guns in the care of the police.

"Given the recent find of arms and ammunition on Munster Road, and the challenges that the police are having controlling the firearms within their armoury and other divisions, perhaps it is time for us to look at using the FLA as an audit department for the police force," Bunting said in Parliament on Tuesday.

The Central Manchester member of parliament was responding to a motion brought by Finance Minister Audley Shaw to allow for the FLA to increase gun licence fees.

However, yesterday, Senator Dwight Nelson, the national security minister, rebuffed the suggestion. He said the FLA stores firearms for the police and it would be a redundant case of self-auditing.

The FLA was established by an act of Parliament in 2005. The function of the authority is to streamline and standardise the granting, renewal and revocation of firearm licences.

"What is needed is for the Ministry of National Security to use its audit expertise to augment the police's expertise to ensure a foolproof system in the auditing of guns - if there is any such system," Nelson said.

He told
The Gleaner
he has already given instructions for the audit department in the ministry to do twice-yearly audit of police guns, ammunition and equipment. These are normally audited yearly.

A police sergeant was arrested on February 4 after his colleagues searched premises he occupied along Munster Road, St Andrew, and recovered 18 firearms and nearly 11,000 rounds of ammunition belonging to the Jamaica Constabulary Force. The policeman worked in the JCF armoury at the East Kingston Police Division headquarters.

Nelson said he intended to put in place a system which would ensure that all equipment in the care of the police was properly accounted for.

"If it becomes necessary, as minister, I am prepared to contract private expertise to augment our expertise in the audit section of the ministry," Nelson told
The Gleaner
. He also said the likelihood of the FLA assisting in the audit was a distant possibility.

When Bunting spoke in Parliament Tuesday, he noted that the law which established the FLA explicitly stated that it had no jurisdiction over the police regarding auditing. Bunting, however, noted that the time had come for a revision of that law.

"I would suggest that we look at expanding the role of the FLA to assist the police, particularly as they have demonstrated a certain professionalism and track record in this area," Bunting said.