Father wants justice after 11-y-o son reportedly pepper sprayed by cop
ST MARY, Jamaica — The father of an 11-year-old boy, who was forcibly restrained and reportedly pepper sprayed by a police officer in Oracabessa, St Mary last Friday, is hoping some justice will come from the incident that has left him and his family traumatised.
“My son is a quiet boy. He is only talkative around his peers and right now I don’t know what is going through his head,” said Fitzroy Robinson.
Robinspm is still in shock that a routine school pickup of his children ended so badly.
“When I reached a few metres from the police station after leaving the school, I saw the transport authority and some police. They stopped me and I stopped,” he told Observer Online.
He said the police officer told him he would be charged for failing to place his six-year-old daughter in a car seat and also because his son was not wearing a seat belt.
“I replied that he cannot charge me for a car seat as that law was thrown out but he can charge me for the children not wearing a seat belt,” said Robinson.
Robinson said he began arguing his point, making the cop aware that he knew his rights and that he was entitled to freedom of speech.
The officer then proceeded to give him a ticket.
“He crossed the road and I was on my phone telling my friend that the idiot police were going to charge me for the car seat,” said Robinson.
Robinson said another officer then asked who he was referring to and a heated argument developed. His children saw him being handcuffed. Robinson man said his son became overwhelmed, exited the car and rushed towards the policeman.
“My son kept yelling, ‘What you are doing with my daddy!’” Robinson told Observer Online.
He said his son was pushed and then fell to the ground. The police officer reportedly restrained the minor by kneeling on him and then spraying him with pepper spray.
“My son cried out for water as his eyes burned him. The officer told him he was not getting any as he’s a bad man. I couldn’t do anything as I was handcuffed,” said Robinson.
A video of the cop using his knee and arms to hold the boy in place on the ground has gone viral. The cop’s actions have been questioned by both the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) and Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), which both issued press releases on the issue.
“The police must distinguish between a frightened young primary school student responding to a potentially traumatic situation and deliberate acts of misconduct. When dealing with children in situations like these, it is crucial to redirect their emotions and provide reassurance rather than resorting to force,” said CPFSA chief executive officer Laurette Adams-Thomas.
The CPFSA said it provided immediate on-the-spot counselling to both children on Friday after a report from the St Mary police. The agency will also offer follow-up counselling sessions for the children this week.
“Recognising the traumatic nature of such events, the Agency also referred the father to the Victim Services Division for counselling and provided guidance by sharing the contact information for the Office of the Children’s Advocate,” said the release.
Meanwhile, JFJ on Monday condemned what it has described as the use of excessive force by the cop.
“JFJ condemns this egregious violation of the child’s rights and emphasises the urgent need for a transparent and comprehensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding this incident. The organisation calls on the Jamaica Constabulary Force to take swift and decisive action against the officers involved, ensuring they are held accountable for their actions,” it said in a release from Executive Director Mickel Jackson.
She said the incident highlights the “importance of proportionate responses by law enforcement”.
“This proportionality becomes even more important when handling children where there must be discernment of threat of harm and public safety versus a child who reportedly acted out of emotions. The organisation calls for a renewed focus on training that prioritises de-escalation techniques and emphasises the protection of the rights and well-being of all citizens, particularly minors and other vulnerable groups. Furthermore, the organisation renews the call for use of body-worn cameras as evidence into the matter is seemingly relying on video footage of a mobile device,” said Jackson.
Robinson has taken comfort in the support from the CPFSA and JFJ. He is also heartened by the support provided by members of the Oracabessa Primary School family, community members and the St Mary police.
Superintendent in charge of St Mary Bobbette Morgan Simpson told Observer Online that the matter is under investigation.
“I can only say the police officer is not from St Mary,” she said.
Robinson is waiting to see the outcome of any investigation launched.
“Right now my children’s mother, who is abroad, is shaken up by the incident and she cannot be here. I just want justice for my son,” he said.