Abuse of power by Ja­maican po­lice

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY -

IT’S TELLING that so many of us think that killings and abuse of power by the po­lice are not an is­sue in Ja­maica, de­spite the cries from families which echo across the length and breadth of this coun­try like that of a wounded an­i­mal.

One would think that in a coun­try where, on av­er­age, 200 or more peo­ple were killed by the po­lice be­tween 2005 and 2013, we would be more will­ing to dis­cuss this press­ing is­sue. How can we be so res­o­lutely op­posed to the ad­vo­cacy re­gard­ing the need to ad­dress the ‘per­sis­tent pat­tern of un­law­ful killings by mem­bers of the Ja­maican Con­stab­u­lary Force’ which, ac­cord­ing to Amnesty In­ter­na­tional, rep­re­sents around eight per cent of all killings in 2015? Should we not ac­knowl­edge that there is a prob­lem and work col­lec­tively to en­sure even more re­duc­tions in killings by the po­lice (which has re­duced by half since 2014), and pro­vide sup­port to those who are left to mourn the loss of their loved one?

I imag­ine it is be­cause we have never ex­pe­ri­enced such an abuse, never suf­fered in such a man­ner, and many of us think this is nec­es­sary to rid our coun­try of the high lev­els of crime and vi­o­lence. I am fully aware that our of­fi­cers also work in very stress­ful and danger­ous cir­cum­stances. I ac­knowl­edge, as well, that they of­ten have to bat­tle with crim­i­nals with more so­phis­ti­cated and high­pow­ered ri­fles than they have. This should not, how­ever, im­pede our abil­ity to show em­pa­thy and ac­knowl­edge sys­tem­atic cases of im­punity, in­ad­e­quate in­ves­ti­ga­tion, lack of ac­count­abil­ity, and de­lays in se­cur­ing jus­tice. As Shack­e­lia Jack­son, sis­ter of Nakiea Jack­son – the 29-year-old restau­rant owner and for­mer Gleaner em­ployee who was killed by the po­lice in 2014, said, “[we] need to recog­nise that no one wins” when we so fiercely op­pose ad­vo­cacy around po­lice killings. “Th­ese oc­cur­rences threaten pub­lic con­fi­dence in the state and dis­con­nect the state from com­mu­ni­ties.”


Amnesty In­ter­na­tional has pub­lished a fas­ci­nat­ing new re­port ti­tled ‘Wait­ing in Vain’, which fea­tures a sam­ple of the ex­pe­ri­ences of per­sons in­volved in the over 400 cases Ja­maicans for Jus­tice had in the courts, which they had to drop be­cause of lack of fund­ing. What stood out most pro­foundly is the dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances families ex­pe­ri­ence in se­cur­ing jus­tice for

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