INDECOM says no official report yet of confrontation between soldiers and Denham Town residents

KINGSTON, Jamaica— Up to press time Thursday, the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) said it had not received any official reports from residents of Denham Town about a video, which has gone viral on social media, showing a Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) soldier beating a man with his rifle during a confrontation on Wednesday.

“At this time, the Commission has not commenced an official investigation as we have not received a formal complaint regarding the incident. The Commission uses this opportunity to encourage the civilians involved, as well as the original makers of the videos in circulation, to make a report to INDECOM,” the Commission said in a statement, adding that it has contacted the JDF to get its assistance with identifying the soldiers in the video.

A statement from the JDF on Thursday said that it acknowledged the incident and an investigation has been launched to ensure appropriate actions are taken where deemed necessary. At the same time, the JDF urged residents of communities in which the security forces are required to operate to cooperate with them.

“The JDF is committed to working with the Jamaica Constabulary Force in re-evaluating how the challenges in the community may be better managed. We invite anyone with information relating to this or any other matter of a security nature to call the JDF Tip Line at 876-837-8888.”

A few hours after the JDF statement, another video appeared on social media showing a pregnant woman being kicked by a member of the JDF, fuelling further tensions between the military and residents.

That incident reportedly occurred Thursday afternoon on Charles Street in West Kingston.

Having taken note of incidents of physical confrontation between the public and members of the JDF, retired army lieutenant, Robert Finzie-Smith, has appealed to the Government to quickly return soldiers to their original function of supporting the police during civil unrest or war and not the administration of law.

“The Government must do the best they can to revert to having policemen carry out the legal attributes and have soldiers do what they were designed to do, which is to back them up. The direct interaction between soldiers and civilian population does not work unless you have a military regime. In Africa and other places where coups are, the government is run by the military. Soldiers aren’t trained to be policemen. When soldiers are placed out like that, what they are supposed to do is act in support of the police,” Finzie-Smith argued.

Under a Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO), members of the military have the powers of a constable within a specified zone, which means they can make arrests without the presence of the police.

“You can’t turn soldiers into policemen in green. As the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt. When I was on active duty, it was a major occurrence if Blackberry Barracks gate opened and then Cotton Tree gate opened and two lorries with soldiers move out. People ran for the hills. Now, you see soldiers every day, sitting on people’s doorsteps,” Finzie-Smith bemoaned.

Jason Cross

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