PRIME Minister Portia Simpson Miller on Wednesday broke her silence on last Saturday’s police shooting of a pregnant mother in St Thomas, offering condolences to the woman’s family.
“That pregnant mother in St Thomas... I pray God’s strength for members of the family,” said the prime minister, who was speaking at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Spalding market in Clarendon.
“I am sure you all [will] join with me to express sorrow and pain and pray God’s guidance, protection and that He will strengthen the members of the bereaved family. I want to say to the men and women of the Jamaica Constabulary [Force] we are one people, one blood...,” she said.
“I believe those officers who work tirelessly in areas where it is stressful, periodically, should be dealt with in a different way from some others...”
Twenty-seven-year-old Kay-Ann Lamont was allegedly shot in the head in Yallahs square by Corporal Dwight Smart following a tussle which started when Smart accosted the woman over the use of indecent language. One of Lamont’s sisters was also shot in the shoulder by Smart and had to be hospitalised.
On Monday Smart’s superiors at the Yallahs Police Station, and residents from the area, expressed surprise at the corporal’s action, saying that he was a quiet, church-going man.
Smart was on Wednesday evening charged for murder, wounding with intent, illegal possession of a firearm, and assault. He is expected in the Home Circuit Court after the start of the new court term on September 17.
Several civic groups and individuals have come out in condemnation of the incident.
On Wednesday, Rev Monsignor Gregory Ramkissoon described the incident as a national disgrace and scandal.
“In this day and age, when we are celebrating 50 years of our political independence, I call it celebrating disgrace. This is scandalous. It’s a national scandal,” Ramkissoon told the Jamaica Observer during an interview at his office in the Mustard Seed Community of Kingston.
Ramkissoon suggested that the constabulary force should institute a policy that requires regular psychological evaluation of its front-line members “to see if stress is getting the better of them”, in an effort to stave off the occurrence of any such incident. He also suggested that the force only issue guns to police officers of “specialised” units “with specialised training” and not those who are interfacing with the public on a daily basis.
These same suggestions were later made by the group, The Jamaica Civil Society Coalition, which called for the procedure to be implemented speedily by the Ministry of National Security.
The ministry, a release on Wednesday, said that Cabinet had on Tuesday “approved the exploration of the engagement of psychological services for the Jamaica Constabulary Force”.
According to the release, these services would include:
• Training police personnel to identify high levels of emotional and job-related stress amongst colleagues;
•Implementing psychological/psychometric screening both at recruitment and at periodic intervals throughout their tenure to identify 'at risk' personnel; and
• Ensuring that police personnel have access to professional psychological services in a confidential setting.
The ministry said it “deeply regrets” the incident.