LINSTEAD: Union cautions against punishment for officers who dismantle handcarts

The union representing Municipal police who dismantled vendors’ handcarts while trying to bring order to the streets of Linstead, St. Catherine, said there is no basis on which any disciplinary action should be taken against the Municipal officers involved.

The officers, who are employed to the St. Catherine Municipal Corporation, met on Tuesday (June 23) with Helene Davis Whyte, who is General Secretary of the Jamaica Association of Local Government Officers (JALGO). The meeting took place at the Municipal police’s office in Spanish Town, St. Catherine.

Whyte said the Municipal police requested the meeting because they felt as though there were being ‘thrown to the wolves’.

They have been blasted after a video, which has gone viral, shows a Municipal police using a sledgehammer to dismantle a handcart. The goods, which were being sold on the handcart, ended up on the roadway.

The Municipal police, who conducted the operation on June 16 along with members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, have not publicly given their side of the story because of work-related restrictions.

Minister of Local Government Desmond McKenzie, who was among persons chiding the Municipal police, called for at least one of them to be suspended.

No one has been suspended to date, the trade union told The Beacon, adding that the St. Catherine Municipal Corporation is continuing its investigation into the incident.

Whyte said she is awaiting the outcome of the Corporation’s investigation and its final decision to determine the next step that the union will take.

She added that, having listened to the Municipal police’s side of the story, there is no logical reason for the disciplinary action that McKenzie had requested.

“I think the minister’s call was an off-the-cuff response that is regrettable because, in all of these situations, one has to make sure that they get all sides of the story. Even though you may have something on camera, you don’t know what transpired before or what transpired after. You need to get a full picture before you make calls for action to be taken against members of staff,” Whyte posited.

She added: “From our standpoint, having gotten a full picture [of what happened], we could not support any attempt to discipline any member of the team – based on information that we have.”

Whyte reasoned that even the Municipal officer who is seen on video dismantling a handcart could not properly face disciplinary action.

“The officer was instructed to do what he did and so, if one is carrying out duty under instruction, I don’t know how it is that you could hold the officer responsible. If he had disobeyed, he probably would be facing a charge for disobedience to orders,” the veteran trade unionist opined.

She also noted that, based on the regulations that exist, the vendors are not supposed to be selling their goods in the streets.

Whyte also noted that she does not support the use of the word ‘destroy’ to describe what was done to the vendors’ handcarts. She said ‘dismantle’ is a more appropriate word.

“The usual thing is to confiscate the goods and also to confiscate whatever is the mechanism that is being used to convey those goods… We also got information about the action of the particular vendor [whose cart is shown in the viral video]. That [information] is certainly not out there in the public domain right now,” Whyte said.

She told The Beacon that the officers already met with the St. Catherine Municipal Corporation, and their fears of being punished have been allayed somewhat.

“When we got there [in Spanish Town] for the meeting, we were told that there had been a meeting before with the administration [of the municipal corporation] – including the Mayor of Spanish Town [Norman Scott]. The workers’ concerns seemed to have been allayed somewhat based on whatever was said to them in that meeting,” Whyte further explained.

By Horace Mills, Journalist


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