The crippling shortage of police vehicles is expected to be eased within the next month as government will be spending $40 million to purchase 80 vehicles to replace the current dilapidated and rundown fleet which is between 10 and 13 years-old.
"Come Monday, we will be putting to tender applications to purchase up to $40 million of motor vehicles for the police force," National Security Minister Dr Peter Phillips announced at the weekend.
Phillips, who was addressing a passing-out parade of 443 police recruits at the Jamaica Police Academy in Spanish Town, said Government was committed to providing the constabulary with the necessary resources to continue its efficiency and effectiveness to the nation.
The police have been grappling with a severe shortage of vehicles, primarily patrol cars, for over two years, with 70 per cent of its current fleet of Pajeros and Toyota Corollas being between nine and 13 years-old. Police sources say only about 50 per cent of the fleet of vehicles are in working condition, the remainder being laid up at private garages either for lack of spare parts or for non-payment of repair bills.
But indications are that the vehicles to be bought will not all be new. Phillips told the Observer after the function that some of them would be pre-owned vehicles, as the $40 million could not purchase more than 20 new cars.
"We do not know (as) yet, we may have to buy used vehicles," Phillips said. "We do not know how much we can get, that's why we are putting it out to tender so they will be able to tell us what we can get. But we are looking at about 80 cars."
But he indicated that more cars would definitely be bought within the next financial year, which starts April and that would only be a start.
Phillips also announced that the May Pen police were to get a new multi-purpose facility next month. He said that Government recently purchased the Eagle Commercial Bank building in the Clarendon capital and the multi-million dollar contract for refurbishing work on the building would be signed shortly.
"It will be a multi-purpose police facility. It will replace the May Pen Police Station and barracks and will also house the area and divisional offices," the security minister said.
Also on the drawing board for next month, Phillips said, was the introduction of a new traffic ticketing system to enable the police to track offenders who refused to pay their fines.
Currently, the police are unable to collect outstanding traffic fines from motorists who refuse to pay because the police national computer was hit by the G2K (Millenium) bug and has not been repaired since. "The new system will make it impossible for those who don't pay the fines to drive a motor vehicle," Phillips said. "We are tightening up the system."
The 443 new cops bring the strength of the force to 7,869, with a ratio of one policeman to 345 persons. However, the force is still 631 short of its 8,500 approved target. Last year, 1,000 cops were added to the force and there are plans to recruit more persons.
Phillips encouraged the rookie cops to uphold the law as they represented the final authority of law in Jamaica. He also warned the 341 male cops and 92 women to display the highest standards of incorruptibility and integrity.
Police Commissioner Francis Forbes, who gave the charge to the graduate cops, reminded them that they had an obligation to perform at the highest standard of professionalism, with dignity and integrity.
Referring to the reorganisation of the force, Forbes said a draft document was currently being reviewed which will give deputy commissioners new responsibilities, putting them in charge of regions; and assistant commissioners in charge of sub-regions. This, he said, would come with greater autonomy and accountability of divisional commanders.
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