More trouble ahead for police


Thursday, August 14, 2014

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MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica: Young man taken into police custody for smoking a ganja spliff. Placed in cell with other men. A beating occurs. Young man taken to hospital where he dies. Citizens demonstrate in city streets with blockades and fire. National outrage. Two police officers brought before the court. Two other men alleged to have a hand in the beating also make court appearances. One more to go. Case gathers more and more national interest. The journey has only just begun...

ROSEAU, Dominica: Five police officers are on charges following a man being found dead in cell of a police station. Authorities declare this a homicide and have promised full and transparent investigation.

FERGUSON, Missouri, USA: Citizens protest following death of a black teenager shot down by police. Claims that the young man was resisting arrest by an officer in a police car. Witnesses contradict police statement. They say the young man's hands were in air, in surrender ,when he was cut down by many bullets. Anger burns in predominantly black community. Riots in streets. US President calls for calm alongside investigations. Riots continue...

Three locations, three stories, one familiar thread common to all. Police and people relations not what they should be. Every community pays for the consequences of clashes by the vulnerable and the wielders of power. When they meet, something gives...and the pieces are scattered far and wide.

Common threads

In the Montego Bay and Missouri incidents, some of the common links are strangely alike, especially the fate of young black men. Why is there so much tension between the young men and the police? It happens here, it happens there. How many will have to suffer, how many will have to die in the fragile relationship between the law and the people?

In the event in Montego Bay, over recent days, nobody is prepared to give the police the slightest benefit of any doubt. So, while a young man's life is mourned, the police is discredited as fires burn in street protests and difficult times lie ahead.

It is a pity we have not heard more about the incident in Dominica to discover any similarities to the other two police and people incidents. In Missouri, the story of a young black youth dying at the end of a police gun is a tired and bitter saga now. The query is distressingly familiar. Will there ever be a cure to America's race relations cancer?

In Montego Bay, protests reawakened memories of times past when street blockades were created with debris and fires lit. While we empathise with families and friends left to mourn, reminders should be given to demonstrators that we're in the midst of dry season. An open fire in a public place is not a good idea. It only takes a spark to send the flames spreading, and water is not always available.

Where to now? Questions follow recent declarations by the ministries of justice and national security recommending police tolerance toward "a small amount of ganja". How much is how much? It has been said that eight ounces and under qualify as personal use. Eight and over and there is promotion to dealer. Who knew until now?

It was said, jokingly, we assume: Cops will have to travel with scales of justice or justices of the peace to verify weight. If this is meant to be funny, no one is laughing.

Another question of the day: How soon will the Government pay compensation to the family of the deceased young man?

Response: (From a learned source) Some assistance may be given to assist with immediate expenses, but as for compensation, full investigations have to be completed and official details settled. This could take a long while, seeing that the process has not even begun.

Much more trouble ahead for police...

They might have forgotten that there are official regulations for how police lock-ups should be kept. All details are carefully set out and gazetted. This raises another question of how many lock-ups fulfil the conditions required for persons waiting to be taken to court since maintaining police stations for even everyday use is difficult.

The next question is where will the money come from, if cell blocks have to be upgraded and updated to meet requirements? There is a mighty long way to go.

It is difficult to see how the Jamaican Constabulary will repair damages to its relationship with the community. A new police commissioner will have to be sworn in sooner than later. It will be rough times ahead. If the public trust and confidence in the police is undermined by challenges which seem impossible to overcome, how then can the police get an edge on the crime fight? Every commissioner has had to try solving this puzzle. Whoever is in the wings waiting to make his entrance would be excused if he were shaking in his shoes.

The saddest part of our police and people story is that there are individuals of integrity and quality in the JCF who respect themselves and what they stand for. They do their work and they do it well, but their status is tarred with the same brush of disrespect from much of the public who refuse to believe that everyone is not contributing to corruption and inefficiency. You cannot convince some people that the image of bullies, who use their power and influence to stomp on others, does not apply to everyone in the force. Every day that another weak spot is revealed, public confidence in the police declines further.

Gala review

Criticism is nothing new for the annual Independence Grand Gala. This year was no exception. People have criticised the budget -- too high in this hard time. They have mixed feelings about aspects of the production. They have declared it was not as good as previous years. Problem, as far as I see, is that it is time to make an extensive evaluation of the show and its format. After all, it was introduced to us in 1976 with CARIFESTA. It is time for something else to evolve. It is not too early to start planning in time for next year.

The Ward

What is really happening with the Ward Theatre? Some of the things I've been hearing would make Colonel Ward, the benefactor, shudder in his burial spot. Do we really want to bring this historic place alive or are we ready to bulldoze it?

Glasgow heroes

When will the Commonwealth team come home to get their heroes' welcome? They should be home and honoured by now. They've earned it.




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