Human vs societal rights, an officer asks

Monday, October 14, 2013

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Dear Editor,

As a member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force I am forced to pen this letter, as a result of the death of my colleague, to openly ask where do human rights end and societal rights begin?

I have been a member of the force for 12 years, and over those years I have seen the collective rights of the society dwindle in the face of increasing human rights. While I have no problem with an individual's human rights, I am forced to ask at what point do the rights of society take precedence.

On many operations I have been confronted by marauding men, and indeed women, armed with high-powered weapons. I have seen colleagues, weeping and crying in fear after being pinned down or shot by these individuals. No news team, no civil society groups, no neighbourhood demonstrations to come and say, stop! One is faced with the thought of being riddled with bullets, and all will be offered to your family is a statement of condemnation from sectors of society. No one bothers to think that, as an officer, I am carrying out my lawful duty and I have the same right as the next guy on the street.

I cannot understand why people think most policemen get up, see a young man or woman and just shoot them just because we think they should die. That, in most instances, is not the case, many of these individuals are sophisticated in how they operate and also are known to influential persons who can afford to sanctify them while demonising you. These individuals, by themselves, cannot buy bread, but in court have costly lawyers. I, on the other hand, will be forced to borrow from the credit union, family and friends to defend myself.

I am not writing to win any votes for the police force, because some of my colleagues have let us down. But I am writing to challenge the now seemingly popular view that everyone's human rights trump that of society. When my colleague was shot, his right was not violated, it was taken from him. So was the right of his neighbours to their peace and serenity, as was the public's reassurance that he, as an officer, would be there to protect them.

Growing up, I remember that if I was seen loitering during or after school hours the police officer was within right to take me home or reprimand me. Now we can only stand and talk. If my job is to protect the society in general, why are individuals who knowingly violate the rules and norms of society given greater support than the right of all of society to safety and freedom?

To the family of my slain colleague, I wish there was some way to bring him back. He, like hundreds before him, did not deserve to die because of another person's bloodthirsty desire. He was entitled to the same protection and rights of all Jamaicans as the constitution states. Now, for those who executed him, and others who have committed similar acts, is it fair to just say their rights should be respected as they are still here? It is a question that is reverberating in my mind as I prepare to put on my bulletproof vest and take my assigned weapon to go on patrol. I just ask the good Lord to protect us and guide
the split-second decisions we have to make.

An Officer





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