Public defender cries foul over police station lockout in Rasta teen's locks trimming probeFriday, September 17, 2021
BY BRITTNY HUTCHINSON
Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry said that she and her team faced obstruction at Four Paths Police Station in Clarendon when they went there to probe an allegation that 19-year-old Rastafarian Nzinga King had been forcibly trimmed by a cop.
Harrison Henry explained that they went to Clarendon to speak with King on September 6 about the allegation. She said, based on the information received from the young woman, she saw it necessary to visit the police station.
“At the station, we met the sergeant on duty and we explained the purpose of our visit — that we wanted to have access to the station in furtherance of our investigation of looking at the physical location of the cell block and the guardroom,” Harrison Henry told the Jamaica Observer.
“The sergeant told us he needed a few minutes to consult with his superiors. He went inside the station while I waited outside. He returned to me. I was there with Deputy Public Defender Herbert McKenzie and Special Projects Manager Victor Hemmings. The sergeant said, 'I am instructed to advise you that you have to write to the commissioner of police for permission to visit and view the station.' That is what he said to us,” she said.
She added that the sergeant told her that he received the order from a higher ranked officer.
“Of course, after that we left, because if they are declining us access to the building then we will have to peaceably withdraw. In the course of an investigation we do not need permission to visit any police station unless there are exceptional circumstances,” she argued.
According to Harrison Henry, viewing the layout of the police station is critical to the investigation, as it would show where the alleged incident occurred.
Harrison Henry said a letter was written to the police commissioner shortly after indicating that the denial of access at the police station was an obstruction in the conduct of her lawful duty as public defender.
She also said that it was a breach of Section 25 (b) of the Public Defender (Interim) Act.
Section 25 (b) states: Every person who (i) obstructs, hinders or resists the public defender or any other person in the execution of his functions under this Act; or (ii) fails to comply with any lawful requirement of the public defender or any other person under this Act; or (iii) contravenes the provisions of section 14 (4); or (c) in a manner inconsistent with his duty under section 21 (l), deals with documents, information or things mentioned in that subsection, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction before a resident magistrate [now parish court judge] to a fine not exceeding $50,000 or to imprisonment not exceeding 12 months, or to both such fine and imprisonment.
She said her office told the commissioner that it was going to warn the deputy superintendent of police at the station for prosecution.
“On September 9, we prepared our warning for prosecution and had it served at the May Pen Police Station on September 14,” Harrison Henry said.
The public defender said along with the obstruction, she and her team have been hampered by other issues including no-movement days and staff shortage, but will continue to investigate.
“We continue to collect statements and we have used the public defender's power of summons to have certain witnesses attend before us — persons who we believe have information that can assist us in the investigations and these have been primarily police officers attached to the Four Paths Police Station,” she said.
The Office of the Public Defender launched an investigation into the matter last month after a video circulated on social media in which King and her mother Shirley McIntosh claimed that a member of the police force assigned to the station forcibly trimmed King's locks.
In the video King, who says she is a lifelong Rastafarian, also alleged that she was unfairly detained by the police following an incident in a public passenger vehicle.