Police officers 'assigned to watch DNA leader'

By KHRISNA VIRGIL kvirgil@tribunemedia.net OFFICERS from a special unit within the police force tasked with investigating the campaigning practices of opposition candidates were assigned to watch DNA leader Branville McCartney, a party supporter alleged yesterday. The source, who wished to remain anonymous, claimed the officer was hand-picked for the political investigations unit and admitted to the "special assignment" months ago. "We were at an initial meeting for the DNA at the home of Branville McCartney when I saw a man whom I knew to be a police officer lurking around the periphery of the house," he said. "I then saw him at another event where he told me that he had gotten orders to do surveillance of the residence and to monitor who was going and coming." This account follows Fox Hill MP Fred Mitchell's claim on Wednesday that according to his information, several officers from other areas of the force were reassigned to a "political police unit." While FNM chairman Carl Bethel denied the claims when the story broke, a police officer told The Tribune he was recently assigned to the new unit. Mr Mitchell said the creation of such a unit would support his party's long-held belief that the government, through the Ministry of National Security, has long used security information in the political arena. "People have been calling us behind the scenes saying that they have seen the deployment of police officers in areas that they should not be, involved in matters that they should not be concerned about," said Mr Mitchell. Given an "out of control crime rate", Mr Mitchell said, it is alarming the government would use the police for unrelated matters. "The criticism is directed at the political directorate and that they should resist using the police for things other than what they should be concerned about and that is fighting crime." However, ex-Assistant Commissioner Paul Thompson, who served on the force for 25 years, issued a press statement refuting Mr Mitchell's allegations. He said: "Throughout my service it was always the policy when a general election approaches the officer in charge of the Criminal Investigation would select special personnel, who are prepared to deal with complaints of contravention's of the Parliamentary Elections Act where there are a large number of offences." Mr Thompson added there is no reason for Mr Mitchell to believe that police officers have been reassigned to dabble in political matters on behalf of the government. National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest did not respond to our phone calls for the second day.


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