Scapegoats of the Immaculate girl tragedy

JASON McKAY

Sunday, June 16, 2019

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On March 20, 2012, a group of young men decided to arm themselves with guns, get into a car, and drive to the municipality of Portmore in the parish of St Catherine.

They looked for one of the formal, but poorer communities in this municipality Waterford and chose to rob a citizen of his cellular phone, with the threat of killing him.

After robbing, they chose to refuse to obey the orders of the police in Portmore, who tried to intercept them, and drove like reckless mad men towards Kingston.

They chose not to stop when signalled by the police at Ferry, and the ones at Hunt's Bay. They, in fact, chose not to obey the Mobile Reserve team that attempted to stop them but instead fired on that police team.

A young lady also made a decision that night. Her decision was to get into that car. Her decision cost her her life. Was she in the car when the robberies took place? We will never know.

The police party from 'Mobile', who had attempted the interception, had none of the opportunities that the young men and the young lady had. The team was on duty and was duty-bound to attempt to intercept the vehicle driven by the men who had used the threat of death to steal what they did not work for.

The team was fired upon and in fear for their lives, took a decision to return fire. They did not have days, hours, minutes, or seconds to make their decision they had to make a reflex call. A reflex call is estimated at one-third of a second. In this time they made the decision to return fire on a unit carrying men who had committed an armed robbery, evaded three sets of police teams and was now firing at them.

That decision cost the cops a sentence of 14 years in prison, because it resulted in the death of a child.

I would argue that the death of this child a student of Immaculate Conception High School resulted from a number of bad decisions made by people other than the police officers whose lives were destroyed.

I would suggest that she is dead because young men decided to use violence to steal. Had they not robbed that night, no one would have died. Their theft is not guess work.

The gun and the stolen property were recovered from the car. Why were the perpetrators not charged? Was it because the victim of the robbery would not participate in the trial? And why not? Because he knew damn well that he would be endangering his and his family's life if he did. He did not realise, and I doubt he would care, that his inaction contributed to three good young cops going to prison.

There is, of course, talk about police training. Well, as the commissioner of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service said recently, “the only suitable response to a man firing a gun at you is for you to fire back at him”.

The police had no way to know that one of the occupants of the car was a child. And if they did, should their decision have been to allow themselves to be shot?

There is talk of the 'fair' trial that they got. Is it really fair if the victim of the robbery is too scared to give evidence on behalf of the police?

How is this the fault of the three young people who put on uniforms that night to protect you and me?

Is our society creating scapegoats of the police?

Let us be frank. Would three innocent young cops be in jail if the person killed in that car was one of the gunmen, or perhaps a girl from a less prominent school?

Is this where our society is? Are we willing to watch three innocent cops, including a female, go to prison because they made a decision in a split second to fire to save their lives, but were unable to contain a crime scene of mayhem to prove it?

This is where the Jamaica Police Federation needs to prove its salt. It needs to run a public campaign to right this wrong, whilst the lawyers are doing their part. I want to see a campaign even half as effective as the one launched for the murderers, who died in a gunfight with the police in Braeton in 2001.

This wrong must be made right with the use of public relations and the power of the police force as a union and, I daresay, a voting bloc.

Prison is for criminals! These cops are in prison for a judgement call made in defence of their lives. They are not criminals!

I warn Jamaica: If you continue to defecate on the men and women who choose to fight the gangs of this country, there will come a day when they will look the other way when called to engage in combat.

Always remember that the police force provides 20 services that have nothing to do with engaging gunmen in dark alleys in city slums. You can be a serving police officer and never have to draw your gun.

I have spent a lifetime being very proud of my country. But today I am ashamed of what has been done. Not just for the conviction, because the Appeal Court will right this wrong. I am ashamed of the lack of public response, and that three persons who are not criminals are in prison. These three were genuinely trying to do their job to protect the society.

The reality is that we do not care unless it is our children who are wrongly convicted. We have become selfish, uncaring and totally disconnected in emotion from our fellow citizens' children, who we expect to wear a uniform and protect us.

So, whilst you enjoy your Sunday dinner today, remember that constables Ardewain Smith, Durvin Hayles, and Anna-Kay Bailey are caged like animals, or like criminals, because they stood up rather than cower, and made a decision that altered their lives in less time than it will take you to close this newspaper.

Feedback: jasonamckay@gmail.com


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