Columns

Between a rock (the police) and a hard place (the gunman)

Mark WIGNALL

Thursday, March 21, 2013    

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I was first assaulted by a policeman when I was 15 years of age (1965). It happened again when I was 39 (1989). In the first instance, I was told, 'Yu full a moth eh bwoy', then wham! Right across the face. One eye swollen for a few days.

In 1989, I was attempting to make a social intervention (ask questions) as I observed a policeman physically manhandling a young teen-aged girl in Spanish Town while a gleeful crowd gathered, seemingly eager to smell blood.

While speaking to one policeman, I am grabbed from the side by another and hurled into the upright of a chain-link fence at a place called Marcus Garvey Park in Spanish Town. Spectacles broken and twisted, bruised on the cheeks and bleeding from along my eyebrows. Policemen with their guns trained on me.

I was first held up by about 15 or so boys in 1981. Most with evil-looking knives and two with guns. On Hanover Street at the 'Tel Aviv' side of the PNP/JLP political divide. It was two of us, both Fortis old boys misreading the rate of the cessation of violence after the ferocities of the 1980 general election campaign. They took a whopping $16 from my pockets.

Previous to that, in 1972 a man pulled a gun on me while we were in a nightclub, on a Saturday afternoon. As I tried to defend the honour of a woman in my company from abusive comments by a patron, the man pulled a gun on me even as I advanced towards him with a broken bottle in one hand.

In 1999, I was held up by three boys on the edge of Rose Town. They relieved me of a silver necklace and about $2,000.

My experience is not as rare as it would seem to some readers. People from the poorer sections of society are preyed on by their own, home-bred criminal elements just as they are kicked up, boxed up by the police. Indeed, to hear some male residents of inner-city communities talk of their interaction with the police, one would form the impression that these young men expected to be beaten, especially if it had to be placed alongside the other option. Death by 'shootout.'

Whenever you are being held up by gunmen, there is an unexplainable subconscious element operating that tells you it is possible to walk away with your life. Which doesn't mean you are not horribly scared. The key is to not show palpable fear and use your body language to negotiate your safe exit.

With the policeman, once he says, 'A whey you fah?' and moves menacingly towards you, you begin to tense your body in expectation of a blow.

The irony is, if at four in the morning you find that a prowler is attempting to gain forced entry to your house, you will be calling the police, that is, if you do not reside in an inner-city enclave. There you can always call up the 'local authority' and have matters dealt with.

The DPP, Paula Llewellyn, has been at pains to explain that the state had no other option but to free the policeman who had been accused of murder in the Buckfield matter. The incident was recorded by cellphone and immediately released to the media.

It clearly showed the policeman walking around while a man was flat out on the ground making an ass of himself, throwing stuff like pebbles at the cop. At one stage the man in beaten by batons. Then the policeman casually uses his gun to pump a bullet in the man. The man crawls under the car and eventually dies.

In court, 'self defence' allows the policeman to walk free. Not surprisingly, the video evidence was not tendered into evidence because the person could not be found. Now isn't that strange?

Why would that videographer not want to give the police investigators the full cooperation they needed? Is it at all possible that, with the reputation of the JCF as a body not to be trusted to protect witnesses who give potentially damaging evidence against the police, the person was deathly afraid to come forward?

Has anyone determined that this person was threatened, as I am almost positive was the case?

It seems that there are a number of points of intersection in too many cops opting to becoming rogues. One, something happens in the year after training school. Cops discover 'hustling', whether it is the petty type of drinking at bars and not paying the bills, to the real heavy stuff of doing work for druggists or working in tandem with dons.

One well-known don/political activist who was never known to be short of political contract work, had about three cops who guarded him 24x7. These cops were paid by the state but did work for this don, who incidentally had at his beck and call about a dozen young 'soldiers', as he called them. These soldiers were all hardened gunmen.

And then, of course, even if a policeman wants to do well in 'protecting, serving and reassuring', he really does not want to interfere with those who operate outside of those parameters. The 'squaddie' mentality.

After too long, the entire force slips into a nasty ooze of corruption, surreptitious gunmanship, including 'taking out' witnesses and rival druggists on behalf of criminal dons, and just a general sense that they will not allow goodness to bring starvation down on their heads.

The Commissioner of Police, Owen Ellington, who means well, is armed with a fudge stick trying to paddle against this huge wave that has overcome the police force. Certainly, with the freeing of the cop in the Buckfield killing, very few of our people will be willing to accept the legal complexities as offered by the DPP. Many more of them, especially the poor and powerless, will see the incident as proof of atrocities carried out by the state in the name of defending us from marauding gunmen.

And what message will it be sending to the freed cop?

Our 'rock and a hard place' is compounded by the fact that as the economy contracts and uncertainty reigns while many poorer households suffer, the gunman in the community has grown more desperate. He now has to be competing with the rogue elements in the force for hit jobs which have grown fashionable in the last few months.

To add insult to injury, the cops and the country want to lock down the lotto scamming. When that income dries up, what will happen to those misguided guns?

Policemen cranked-up, gunman 'cracked up' and citizens in the middle of the battlefield collecting the bodies of those killed through collateral damage.

observemark@gmail.com

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