Renewed call for toll exemption for cops in emergencies
A cop’s death has rekindled debate about unfettered access for emergency vehicles, with the Police Federation and St Ann South East Member of Parliament Lisa Hanna calling for a rationalisation of arrangements between the constabulary and the Toll Authority of Jamaica.
Constable Donald Carr, 36, succumbed to injuries at the St Ann’s Bay Hospital after the vehicle in which he was travelling reportedly got out of control and overturned in a ditch in the vicinity of Golden Grove. A female passenger was admitted in serious condition.
There has been uproar from police personnel that they had access problems reaching the crash site, as toll booth operators insisted that highway fees be paid.
Corporal Rohan James, chairman of the Police Federation, has charged the Government to review the policy, arguing that it was “absurd” that lawmen were encumbered by “bureaucratic red tape”.
“There were, in fact, impediments by the toll operators to the police officers being able to transport the victims to the hospital ... . The officer had to lift the barrier the transport the victim to the hospital,” James told The Gleaner on Sunday.
Hanna has joined in the call for exemptions for full access to toll highways for the police and other emergency responders.
“Our emergency vehicles must have free movement and access to the highways and road networks if they are to serve, assist, and better protect our citizens. Not to do so may delay police emergency access in critical incidents which can lead to loss of lives,” Hanna said in a statement issued Sunday afternoon.
The North-South Highway has two toll stations in St Ann South East for entrances and exits: Unity Valley and Golden Grove.
Chairman of the Toll Authority of Jamaica, Hugh Faulkner, expressed condolences at Carr’s passing, but would not be drawn on the specifics of the case.
Speaking broadly, however, Faulkner said that any policy shift to allow for the police to be exempt from toll charges would have to be addressed in law.
Meanwhile, gloom hung Sunday over the Hunts Bay Police Station, where Carr was assigned, as several colleagues were inconsolable.
Inspector Raquel Longmore was in shock on Sunday, recalling having spoken to him the week before the crash.
“When you see them for the last time, you don’t know. We are mourning, he was a very good officer, very decent and hard-working,” she told The Gleaner.
Shift commander at Hunts Bay, Inspector Joseph Davis, shared that Carr was known for his punctuality and for carrying out his duties with pride. He also memorialised him as a man of integrity.
“He was an excellent team player. He would have displayed quality service and he got along well with members of the community. He participated in inner-city activities and he did his work as a professional,” said Davis.
Carr reportedly served as an inspiration not only for his colleagues but for the wider community given his active participation with youth events in surrounding communities.
“He was a positive influence. He dissuaded the young men from getting involved in crime, he was a tower of strength and he will be missed by not only by the division itself but to the wider community,” said Davis.
As at April 29, 143 persons were killed in crashes this year.