(JAMAICA OBSERVER) — A representative of the Police Federation used the funeral service for slain corporal, Melvin Smith, on Sunday to call for a unified approach to crime fighting, an amendment to the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) Act, and enforcement of the death penalty for cop killers.
“We have lost a friend, a colleague, a gentle giant, a smiley face, a humanitarian, a real treasure; not only to the Jamaica Constabulary Force but the citizens of Jamaica. The blame-game syndrome, the see-no-evil-hear-no-evil… let me tell you something today, we have to change our stance,” Corporal Arleen McBean told mourners inside Northern Caribbean University’s gymnatorium in this central Jamaica town.
Corporal Smith, who was a member of the Community Safety and Security Branch in the Manchester Police Division, was gunned down on October 27 while chasing men who had robbed a young man of his motorcycle. The victim of the robbery was also injured in the shooting incident.
The Manchester police have since arrested and charged a 22-year-old man for the murder.
On Sunday, Corporal McBean argued that grey areas in the INDECOM Act that she described as rigid and subjective, as well as unsatisfactory wage negotiations should be addressed quickly.
“The Jamaica Constabulary Force is 150 years old… we struggle with our challenges day after day, year after year but we have built strength in all that we do. Recently, we heard public utterances about INDECOM having overreaching authority and (there is) a need for a balance. I will use today to say that the Police Federation, from that Bill was tabled, shared the likely implications of the INDECOM Act, and now we see that those grey areas are a problem zone for many. If the powers that be are not brave enough to amend that act of Parliament, with its rigidity and subjectiveness, then what will we do? Is it that an existence of an agency of five years is going to demoralise us?” she asked.
“We need an amendment of that Act forthwith. We, the Federation, lobby assiduously for the Government of Jamaica to provide legal fees for our members who are supposed to face INDECOM,” said McBean.
McBean’s call came a full week after Prime Minister Andrew Holness promised additional measures to fight crime, including money to pay the legal expenses of police fingered by INDECOM.
Holness made the announcement at the Jamaica Labour Party annual conference on November 26, saying that the Government intended to include the funds in the Supplementary Estimates (Budget), expected to have been tabled last Wednesday in the House of Representatives, to provide legal support for the police who face the court for the shooting of suspects.
He also said the Government would reintroduce legislation to refuse bail to individuals charged with gun crimes.
McBean said that Smith was an active Federation delegate in the Manchester Police Division and lamented that he died without having the satisfaction of the salary he deserved.
“Whenever we leave the Ministry of Finance, the negotiating table, he would call for an update. Melvin yearned for that day when he could say ‘I am being paid as how I rightfully deserve’; unfortunately that offer (of a three per cent increase in year one and two on basic salary) we classify as a monumental tragedy. A monumental tragedy for those… who gave their lives and paid the ultimate price as our brother did; a monumental tragedy for those who fall through the floors of stations; a monumental tragedy for the police who wonder where I will get my next bread,” she said.
McBean said it was not enough to just remember Smith, but it was important to build on the trust that he enjoyed in the communities that he served, to ensure a better nation and a better tomorrow.
Reverend Karl Johnson of the Jamaica Baptist Union said that the church and families can do more to fight crime.
Police Commissioner George Quallo, like Corporal McBean, noted the challenges faced by Jamaica Constabulary Force members but urged them to continue to carry out their duties in a professional manner.
Smith’s life, he said, was not in vain.
After the service, Corporal Smith’s remains were interred at Goshen Cemetery in St Elizabeth.