Abuse of power by Jamaican police
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