INDECOM head pleads for the mentally ill after 15 shot by security forces this yearFriday, October 09, 2020
BY ARTHUR HALL
THE Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) is urging members of the security forces to rethink their approach to dealing with individuals who are mentally ill.
Head of INDECOM Hugh Faulkner yesterday noted that, for the first nine months of this year, 15 mentally ill people were shot by members of the security forces during reported confrontations.
Of that number, six of them died, while nine have been left nursing gunshot wounds.
“So, the deaths of the mentally ill in these circumstances account for seven per cent of the [security forces'] fatalities up to the second of October this year,” Faulkner told a media briefing yesterday.
“The total of 15 mentally ill persons who have been shot… accounts for 10 per cent of the 150 persons who have been shot and killed, or injured, in confrontations with the security forces,” explained Faulkner.
He noted that none of the mentally ill individuals shot by the security forces so far this year was armed with a firearm, but all were reported to be in possession of a weapon or implement of some sort.
The recently installed INDECOM boss noted that five of the mentally ill people were armed with knives, four with machetes, and six with other weapons, including four who were armed with stones.
Among those armed with stones was a 34-year-old man who was shot and injured after he allegedly attacked two soldiers at the intersection of Deanery Avenue and Deanery Road in St Andrew, in June.
It was reported that the soldiers were travelling along Deanery Avenue when they were informed by other soldiers that a man was throwing stones at residents. The soldiers approached the man and told him to stop throwing the stones. He reportedly turned his missiles on the soldiers and was shot.
But Faulkner argued that incidents such as this one could be resolved without gunfire.
“INDECOM is encouraging the security forces to review the tactical response in dealing with the mentally ill to identify ways in which the mentally ill may be subdued without the use of firearms,” he said.
“And I understand that in some instances the situation might be grave and challenging, but we are encouraging that these steps be reviewed in dealing with the mentally ill,” added Faulkner.
According to Faulkner, members of the security forces need to exercise more than the ordinary care in dealing with individuals who are mentally ill, because they might not even be aware of the nature of what they are doing at the time.
“So he might not even have the intent to commit injury, or understands what he is doing. That is why we are calling for the utmost care in dealing with these matters and to find methods to subdue the mentally ill without lethal force,” said Faulkner, who did not comment on instances in which people believed to be mentally ill have committed violent crimes.
These include an incident in Clark's Town, Trelawny, in July, when a man believed to be mentally ill attacked his mother and stabbed her to death.
Before that incident, a mentally ill man killed a child and seriously injured an adult in Barker district near Gayle in St Mary. Following that incident, several residents mobbed the man and beat him to death.