The Office of the Public Defender says it has launched an investigation into a complaint that 19-year-old Rastafarian Nzinga King was forcibly trimmed by a woman cop.
“We have commenced our investigation. It being a matter of great public concern that such a thing could possibly have happened will make us put an acceleration on our investigation,” Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
A video has been circulating on social media in which King and her mother Shirley McIntosh claim that a member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) assigned to the Four Paths Police Station in Clarendon 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.
Harrison Henry pointed to the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, which she said protects Jamaicans' right to freedom of religion and conscience.
“It is our understanding that this young lady is a Rastafari, and I think now most Jamaicans may know that Rastafari have traditionally worn their hair in locks. There are many people who wear locks as a fashion statement, but the Rastafari community wear their hair in that way as an expression of themselves, their identity and their faith and religion,” she said.
“In a democratic society, as we say we are, everyone has the right, whether to wear their hair in locks or not, and other people have the right to straighten their hair, wear hair extensions and all manner of things. It is these rights that are innate to the human spirit, the integrity of the human person, and in this case, persons have the right to the outward manifestation of their views, that is part of being diverse and enjoying democratic rights,” Harrison Henry added.
Attorney Isat Buchanan, who said he is representing King, claimed that she was assaulted and battered, and for that the cop ought to be charged.
“We are certainly expecting that whatever investigation the commissioner [of police] does it leads to that. It is unfortunate [that happened] in 2021 and we do hope that in terms of compensation and the necessary damages when it is put before the attorney general and director of state proceedings, that they will not further bring King to suffer more inhumane treatment and humiliation and be dragged through the court,” he argued.
Buchanan said that at this time King's family is gravely concerned about the matter.
“The mother did not recognise her daughter and she has never cut her hair. She [King] knows nothing else and her plea to the officer that 'I am a Rasta… this is not a style, this is who I am', even with that plea nothing has happened. That's the concern,” he said.
Responding to the incident, Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson said a team of investigators from the Inspectorate and Professional Standards Oversight Bureau has been immediately dispatched to Clarendon to investigate the claims made by the women and to objectively determine the facts surrounding the matter.
Meanwhile, Deputy Superintendent of Police Owen Brown, who is based in Clarendon, told the Observer yesterday that the investigation is “out of our hands”.
“There's nothing more that we can do. We have to be instructed in order to act. We can't go off of a video or what we heard; we have to have evidence. It is being investigated at the highest level and if it is proven to be so, then let the chips fall where they may,” Brown said, adding that he is unaware whether instructions were given to remove the accused cop from front-line duty.