Probe launched into councillor's arrest for allegedly breaching curfew

Probe launched into councillor's arrest for allegedly breaching curfew

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-Large
halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, April 09, 2020

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THE police high command has launched a probe into the arrest and charge of councillor for the Trafalgar Division in the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation Kari Douglas and the subsequent leak of a report on the incident on social media.

The high command is also looking into claims that a senior superintendent of police intervened in an attempt to prevent his subordinates from charging Douglas.

Up to press time yesterday there was no official word from the police as the Jamaica Observer was told that statements were being collected from all the individuals involved.

Douglas was arrested and charged with breaching the Disaster Risk Management Act and disorderly conduct on Tuesday night by cops assigned to the Constant Spring Police Station.

A statement circulating on WhatsApp yesterday, purportedly from one of the arresting officers, said Douglas had been stopped on Meadowbrook Avenue and “failed to identify herself as a member of the essential service as laid down by the law”.

It is further alleged in the statement, which has since gone viral, that Douglas “became boisterous and started hurling abusive language, stating that the police were idiots and dunce to the annoyance and disturbance of the public.

“She was bailed at the sum of $20,000 to appear in the HWT RM Court [the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court] on May 6, 2020,” the statement added.

But, speaking with the Observer yesterday morning, Douglas said she was neither rude nor boisterous when stopped by members of a police team a few blocks from her house, despite them refusing to accept that, as a councillor, she is exempt from the curfew rules.

“The claims against me are false. The prime minister has clearly established that under the Disaster Risk Management Act, mayors and councillors are exempt from the curfew. With that exemption in mind, I remained in my division last night [Tuesday] to deal with some emergency situations involving some elderly and vulnerable persons who needed help.

“I was about two blocks away from my home when the police pulled me over and asked for my driver's licence. They did not even look at it. I told them I was a councillor and that I was exempt under the law, but they refused to listen and said they were going to lock me up if I couldn't produce a valid Government-issued ID that identified me as a councillor of the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation,” said Douglas.

She said she was instructed to follow the police to the Constant Spring Police Station, where she was charged, despite the mayor and deputy mayor of the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation turning up to identify her.

“I was not boisterous, I simply made it clear that I was exempt from the Act,” said Douglas.

She said she intends to vigorously defend herself in court and, at the appropriate time, will be taking steps to seek redress for what, in her view, was an illegal arrest and unsavoury conduct of the team of police personnel.

The councillor also expressed concern that the statement, which made the rounds on WhatsApp yesterday, included her home address and date of birth.

Douglas, who won the Trafalgar Division on a People's National Party ticket in the last local government election, but has since crossed the floor to sit on Jamaica Labour Party benches, also alleged that some of the comments from the police who arrested and charged her suggested that they were being political in their actions.

In the meantime, Mayor of the Kingston Delroy Williams has urged members of the security forces to ensure that the enforcement of the curfew is done in accordance with the law.

Responding to the arrest of Douglas, Williams noted that, under the law, councillors are exempt from the curfew order and argued that during emergency situations, and especially a pandemic, the intervention and response of councillors and municipal officers are critical as they are a significant link in the local disaster response network.

“It concerns me because the councillor was clearly stated as exempted under the order, she was identified and verified as exempt, but was still charged under the very order that exempts her. I am concerned that the councillors and staff and other personnel who are exempted under the order will feel unprotected and threatened going forward,” said Williams.

The mayor added that he was also deeply disturbed about the release of confidential information about Douglas, which was circulated on social media.


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