That destructive trust deficitFriday, December 31, 2021
We expect that the probe by the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) into the killing by police of 29 year-old music producer Mr Mabreco “Tadmar“ Watson, of Grant's Pen in St Andrew, will be thorough and speedy.
The police say Mr Watson was killed during a confrontation at his home in a section of Grant's Pen which our reporter tells us is referred to as Cruiser Banks — close to one of several gullies which serve as drains for the capital city.
The police claim that Mr Watson was wanted for murder and a shooting.
Protesting residents say Mr Watson was an innocent man, killed for no just cause in his home, in front of his family. There are also concerns about how Mr Watson was taken by police to a vehicle parked some distance away.
Of course, Jamaicans have been hearing such stories for as long as most can remember, nurturing a toxic trust deficit between citizens and police which undermines crime fighting.
INDECOM says 123 people have been shot dead by the security forces up to the end of November. There were 115 such deaths in all of 2020.
For the decade ending 2020, INDECOM says 1,520 people were shot and killed by the security forces — a figure described by Deputy Commissioner of INDECOM Mr Hamish Campbell, as reported by this newspaper earlier this year, as an “extraordinarily high number of persons killed” relative to Jamaica's population, which is usually estimated about three million.
All of that has to be seen in the context of Jamaica's horrendously high crime rate. The latest available police figures show 1,454 people murdered in Jamaica this year, up to December 28. That's up from 1,321 for the comparative period last year.
From the perspective of the police, the threat to their lives posed by criminals is extreme. All too often Jamaicans are so reminded by reports of lawmen killed in the line of duty.
Indeed, that threat and the very difficult circumstances under which the police must work underline calls by this newspaper for the police, alongside other absolutely essential government employees such as those in health care and education, to be treated as special categories in terms of compensation.
Back in 2009, former Assistant Commissioner Les Green, a Briton, told Jamaicans that: “In the UK, if you have a murder, you have 30-40 detectives investigating that one murder... Unfortunately, we [in Jamaica] have 800 detectives across the island with 1,600-odd murders per year…”
And further, commenting on police having to enter urban centres without proper access roads — such as shanty towns, gully banks and zinc fenced settlements — Mr Green said: “There are some areas that have a very poor level of police service because those areas are extremely challenging…”
For those among us who have never walked Jamaica's ghettoes, there is no easy way to understand the plight of the citizens who live there, and/or of those who must uphold law and order.
Suffice it to say such conditions are tailor-made for the tensions that now exist in Grant's Pen and which, until they are corrected, will continue to nurture that destructive trust deficit between citizens and those charged to serve and protect.