Hooliganism, indiscipline and the Spalding saga


Sunday, February 17, 2019

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Any nation or group within a nation that has experienced oppression and had to overcome it often feels a need to continue resisting.

This sometimes results in creating heroes who are less deserving than the group which resisted when resistance was needed. An analysis of persons represented by 'Black Lives Matter' reflects a different background than the civil rights activists who were backed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Mind you, they are both deserving of assistance, but the civil rights activists were victims of unprovoked harassment and abuse, whereas the showdowns that have occurred with many of the recent contacts with law enforcement appears to be resistance against stereotyping rather than the abject hatred that the civil rights activists were exposed to, with absolutely no provocation or cause.

One would ask: Could the Micheal Brown conflict in Ferguson have been avoided if the young man had not experienced the earlier assault on the shop owner or reacted differently to the police accosting him? Maybe.

Compare this to the murder of Medgar Evers, the civil rights activist, and you will find it's not really an equal or equitable comparison.

The need to resist seems to exist within our society as well. We have a history of resistance. The 1938 'Labour Riots', the Morant Bay Rebellion in 1865, and the arrest of Sir Alexander Bustamante in the 1940s are parts of our history that we celebrate. Bear in mind, all of these occurred post slavery and were actually acts of resistance against the established law enforcement framework of that period.

The recent episode in Spalding is an example of misplaced resistance, not by one rather silly hooligan, but an entire group of citizens when for some reason, felt the need to resist law enforcement and glorify hooliganism.

That silly hooligan was by no means standing alone. He had the support of the very vocal crowd. I heard no shouts of 'low the police and cooperate'. Is this our historic, much needed resistance of the 1930s manifesting itself in a modern day society, or is this just a spirit of hooliganism being demonstrated by a bunch of cowards who are just hooligans by their own choice?

I would argue that had the silly hooligan not had their verbal support, he would have three less bullet holes in him now.

So the question is why does this group exist? What created this hatred of our own police force that can so easily become the celebration of violence towards it?

My personal view is that there are good and bad persons in every society, and the persons who encouraged the attack are the bad among us. Had this happened in a church parking lot, there would have voices encouraging compliance.

However, I also look on the Jamaica Constabulary Force's culture in the past that separated the members from the populace, this encouraging a 'we vs them' mindset in the officers and creating a civilian stigma of being a second class citizen. This was the old way and that, thankfully, has changed.

Also, we need to ask ourselves, has the video phenomenon that has sent so many successful recent resistances to arrest viral created the impression that it works?

Would this hooligan have struck the officer if he was in blue denim and a tactical kit? Is the day to day uniform of the red-seam colonial dress, also called the 'number one', affiliated with or communicating a subliminal message of weakness?

Should police working in public order be dressed more like combatants? Are these traffic hubs high-risk once you attempt to enforce law and order?

These are some of the questions that probe deeper into the real environment that day to day cops perform police duties. Perception may be playing a part in the attacks against police officers who wear this particular uniform.

Remember the real intention of a force should be the prevention of crime, not the investigation of crime.

Is the law that punishes resistance and assault of a police officer, with a small fine tried in petty session court, also encouraging this conduct?

Maybe it needs to be mandatory prison time, tried in a parish court. Think about it, if you steal from a church it's tried in the high court — the offence is called sacrilege. So why should punching out a cop be tried in a petty sessions court?

Also, was it a justified shooting?

In the eyes of the law the officer is allowed to use as much force as is necessary. Once the man hit him and then advanced in the dynamic manner that he did, the officer was in danger of being disarmed and therefore in mortal danger if the attacker had taken his weapon. This danger is not isolated to him, but to any member of the public who is nearby.

The crowd, although not physically involved, created a danger to the officer because if he had fallen or lost his weapon they have demonstrated that they were likely to join in on the attack.

The legacy of constable Hanson and his death on Constant Spring Road is a living testimony to the danger that is created when you are engaging in hand-to-hand combat with a gun on your person. He was killed with his own gun.

The Minister of National Security Horace Chang, puts it to the poor equipment issued to the officer. I do not think that this incident should carry that burden.

I will at this point take off my hat as a criminologist and put on my self-defence expert hat.

Pepper spray is for use when someone is resisting arrest, not to prevent someone who is attacking you from disarming you and subsequently killing you. Nor would a bulletproof vest have played any part in the decision-making of the cop.

So doc, if you promise not to do lethal combat assessments I will promise not to pull anyone's wisdom teeth.

The response by the police high command and the silence of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) is also encouraging. This did not have the usual script 'the officer is removed from front line and is under investigation'. There was open support for the policeman, who was doing what he needed to go home to his family safely. Indecom did not jump in to make a villain out of him.

The issue of the witness who gave false information on television about what happened also needs to be discussed. How many times has this blatant lying on camera resulted in tarnishing the good name of the police in controversial shootings?

More importantly, how often has false evidence been given, resulting in police officers being convicted? Can we really accept evidence from groups that are by all indications anti-police. That can be a problem if the groups are really large, like taxi drivers, vendors, etcetera.

Decisions that are made in split seconds are analysed over weeks, months and years. Assessments are done in slow motion, whilst actual attacks are real time. So stop looking to see where the policeman fell short, as his decision was made in a split second.

Could he have done it differently if his training was more advanced? Well, I will end this article with this answer.

I have been trained in self-defence in three countries, by four police departments and two armies, and hold a fifth-degree black belt, and if I was attacked by that man in the same way he attacked the police officer, I would have done the same damn thing.

Jason McKay is a criminologist. Feedback:

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