Cabbie allegedly beaten, pepper-sprayed by police
Cops deny using excessive force; colleagues, commuters disagree
MANDEVILLE, Manchester — The alleged beating and pepper-spraying of a taxi operator by police in the Manchester capital on Monday has drawn the ire of members of the public who claimed he did nothing to warrant the treatment meted out to him.
The taxi operator, Michael Frater, who plies the Santa Cruz to Mandeville route was reportedly pepper-sprayed and beaten by the officers in the clear view of other operators, commuters and employees of the Manchester Parish Council, who work out of the Mandeville Taxi Park in the town centre.
The incident unfolded in the Mandeville town square late Monday morning when two police officers reportedly attempted to serve a summons on Frater.
According to the police, Frater acted in an aggressive manner and "drove his car down on them". However, his colleague operators and employees at the Manchester Parish Council said this is not true.
When the Jamaica Observer arrived on the scene, taxi operators were expressing disgust at the incident even as they called for the two police officers attached to the Mandeville Police Station to be taken off front-line duty.
Employees from the Manchester Parish Council office and Frater's colleagues who said they witnessed the incident told the Observer that Frater was in his car when two officers approached the car. They reported that one of the officers informed Frater that there was a summons for him at the station. When Frater enquired what it was for, the officers reportedly left the park and returned with the summons.
Carl Bennett, one of the Parish Council employees who said he witnessed the entire incident, said, "Michael never refuse from tek the summons. But dem seh dem ago lock him up and him throw back the summons out ah di car and seh, 'wha mi do weh unuh ago lock mi up fa?"
Bennett said by then Frater had exited the vehicle, locked it up and walked towards the fence running along the taxi park.
"The police chuck him from back way, Michael never turn around and do the police anything, him still walking to the fence, then him turn around and the police spray him," Bennett explained.
" The brown one, the red seam one, him draw him firearm and seh him ago shoot Michael and wi seh, 'you caan shoot the man because the man nuh do nutten', so him draw him baton".
Bennett said when the police pepper sprayed Frater, "citizens standing out here and dem get pepper-spray too, the parish council workers weh clean up the park get spray, even the said police that follow him here, get pepper-spray".
"After Frater left for the station with the police wi hear seh dem seh Michael use the vehicle fi touch one a dem. Him neva use the vehicle to touch him."
Another parish council worker, who requested anonymity, said she was standing close to Frater's car because she was about to issue him with a ticket for not using the taxi park.
She said Frater was in the car when the police approached, and though the car's ignition was on, the vehicle did not touch the officers.
"This never had to happen, this was totally uncalled for... because the car was already on, Michael started moving it down a little bit, but it never touch the officer, him nuh do nutten fi them pepper-spray him and beat him. I was right here, I see everything," she said.
One of Frater's colleagues, Grantly Pitter, said during a meeting with the police shortly after the incident, Superintendent Melvin Kerr told them Frater was being held and would be charged.
When the Observer spoke with Superintendent Kerr he said Frater would be charged, but could give no details as to the charges that will be laid. When asked whether any action would be taken against the police officers in the incident, he said, "I don't know that there was any real complaint against them. They (the police) say he drove the car down on them... they were reacting to aggression," he said.
The superintendent said the taxi operators who met with him following the incident later admitted that Frater was "abusive". He said he advised the disgruntled taxi operators to take their grouse with the way the incident was handled by the two officers to court. "I told them to go to court, and give their side of the story," he said.