Cops blast Buchanan for 'uneducated' comment

Cops blast Buchanan for 'uneducated' comment

Attorney apologises, says he meant no offence

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT
Senior staff reporter
hibbertk@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

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CHAIRMAN of the Police Officers' Association (POA) Senior Superintendent (SSP) Wayne Cameron is angry about recent comments made by attorney-at-law Isat Buchanan in which he labelled police officers as “uneducated with five CXC subjects”.

The comments were made on a recent broadcast of Radio Jamaica's evening current affairs show Beyond the Headlines, which explored the issue of the Government's ability to indefinitely detain people during the state of emergency pursuant to Section 33 of the Emergency Powers Act.

The discussion was in relation to a case before the Supreme Court relating to five men detained under the state of emergency detention orders signed by the minister of national security.

During the radio interview, Buchanan, who forms part of the legal team representing the men, asserted that the Emergency Powers Act is in breach of the constitution and the minister of national security was “acting on the whim of uneducated police officers with their five CXC subjects”.

“The unconstitutional aspect, to put it in lay man's terms, is that the minister is not allowed to twiddle his thumbs or drink his coffee and decide who will I detain today and who will I say can never go home until I say so. The constitution, as you know, is the don of all dons...what was certainly put before the court today and the decision of the court is that you cannot arbitrarily take away the liberty of the citizens of this country because you are acting on the whim of uneducated police officers with their five CXC subjects — unacceptable, and I am very unapologetic about saying that, because all the information that the minister flicks with his pen comes from the foot soldiers who sometimes have personal vendettas against these young men, and we cannot turn ordinary men and women into criminals. That is not what the drafters of our constitution, the Charter of Rights, which is recent, would have envisioned,” said Buchanan in the July 22 edition of Beyond the Headlines.

The POA chairman, however, shot back at Buchanan on Saturday at the funeral for Constable Decardo Hylton — one of three cops who died after a firefight with gunmen at a house in Horizon Park, St Catherine, last month.

“No convicted felon has the moral authority to refer to the police as uneducated,” Cameron said in reference to Buchanan's 1996 drug case in Jamaica, which was expunged, and his subsequent 1999 drug conviction in the US which saw him spending 10 years behind bars.

SSP Cameron added that, despite Buchanan's comments, any police officer can choose to attend law school. However, Buchanan, he said, cannot enter the police force.

“We have members of the JCF who are lawyers. We have members with PhDs. We have lawyers at various ranks from constable to deputy commissioner of police. Any policeman in the country today can make the decision to go to law school, once he or she satisfies the prerequisites... I dare Mr Buchanan to join the JCF, because no one with a criminal record can be enlisted in the Jamaica Constabulary Force. No individual, irrespective of your status in life in this country. It doesn't matter. You cannot become a member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force with a criminal record, so he cannot become a police officer. We can join the legal fraternity any day,” SSP Cameron said. “Yes, he has angered some persons here. He said he was unapologetic about it, and we are unapologetic about anything we are saying now.”

Another member of the POA, Superintendent Alvin Allen, said Buchanan's comments were careless, undermined the JCF, and perpetuated an outdated narrative that erases the efforts made over time to improve the constabulary.

The POA members said they will meet with the Jamaica Police Federation this week to determine their course of action and whether they will request a retraction from Buchanan.

But, when the Jamaica Observer contacted Buchanan, he said his comments were misinterpreted.

“...I said I was unapologetic about making that statement. The statement being that the constitution is the don of all dons. Meaning, if you are not in line with the constitution, whatever you are doing is wrong. In relation to the constitution, the officers are not educated in the constitution. They have not received the right training. I could extend further by saying I am still learning the constitution, and I do law. The 'uneducated' was not to say that the police officers are dunce. I never said that. If anybody knows Isat Buchanan, I'm an educator, I teach at the Faculty of Law [at The UWI]; my classmates were police officers and some of my students are police officers,” he said.

Buchanan asserted that he respects police and has learnt a lot from them within the precincts of the courts.

“I have the highest respect for the police force. I have the maximum amount of love and would never, in my existence, disrespect a police officer. Similarly, all I am saying is, when it comes to my use of the word uneducated it was not about whether you have a degree. It is about the constitution in terms of being learnt in the constitution. My use of the word was the very English definition in the Oxford Dictionary of uneducated and not about whether you went to school of not. Most clearly, I would never call a police officer dunce. A lot of my court protocols I have learnt from the respectable members of the JCF. Those members of the JCF that are within the precincts of the court have taught me a lot in terms of how to handle myself in court. So I am a student of members of the JCF. I would never set out to disrespect them,” said Buchanan.

He also apologised for offence taken to his comments.

“If any police officer is offended, I am completely, unequivocally saying I am sorry for offending because that was not the context in which I used the word uneducated, particularly with five CXC subjects. It was to say that you have not been trained in matters of the constitution and that excludes lawyers who are police officers and other persons. This is the assumption, that I am beginning there with. I was not painting a broad brush on the JCF, and I would never do that. Anybody who knows me knows I am a human rights attorney. I never discriminate,” he said.

Buchanan added that he is not offended by SSP Cameron's comments, and said if it makes people feel better to reduce him to the worst human being in Jamaica for the greater good, he will accept it.

He added: “I love my brothers and sisters in this country more than I should. As a human rights attorney, I have no ulterior motives, no grudges, no vendetta against any human being in this country. I am about love, and my humility and compassion must not be discarded because of my passion for the constitution to which I was given the opportunity by virtue of the very constitution to be able to rehabilitate.”


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