Jamaica Constabulary Force under Pressure

“Constables have been besieging members of the house of representatives with requests to be given tickets as soon as the call comes for labourers for American farms. Mr. L.W. Rose, St Catherine MHR, mentioned the fact this week in a debate in the house. The action of the constables is similar to that taken in the early days of farm labourer recruitment during the war years. (quote runs on in next para)

“Resignations from the police force were not as easily granted as they are now, and some constables, it was reported, actually misbehaved in order to be sacked, and thus get a chance to leave. It was then reported that a number of men who got out of the force in this and other ways were prevented from leaving the island by the action of officers of the CID.”

In my latest trawl through the Gleaner archives I came upon an article dated March 5, 1951  titled Policemen in Farm Labour Rush (from which the quotes above are taken). The brief report astonished me because it suggests that what we’re experiencing today has roots that go back almost 70 years. Wasn’t it only last August that the selfsame Gleaner reported changes to the Constabulary Force Act requiring sub-officers and constables to give six months’ notice of their intention to resign or face a possible fine of $250,000 or three months in prison?

The reason for imposing such draconian regulation is the continuing high attrition rate in the Jamaica Constabulary Force, an organization slated for modernization in 2010. In that year a Gleaner headline announced Cops Quit, Close To 900 Policemen and Women Resign in Less Than Five Years. 

The most recent edition of the Economic and Social Survey of Jamaica gives more current  data on the dwindling size of the JCF:

The strength of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) as at December 31, 2016 was 20.3 per cent below the establishment size of 14 091. During the year, 643 persons (13.1 per cent female) were enlisted while 549 persons left the Force. This was mainly due to: resignation (71.4 per cent), retirement (18.2 per cent) and death (5.1 per cent).

Incidentally, of the 11,233 members of the JCF only about 2,570 are women. Clearly recruitment and retaining of policemen and women has been a persistent problem since long before independence. 70 years later is it any wonder that serious crime is slowly but surely engulfing the country starting at the Western tip?

Isn’t it high time we started paying members of the JCF a living wage? I think it was Jaevion Nelson who posted the following on Facebook and I completely agree:

JFJ says if the country is to demand accountability and professionalism from the police, then it must also demand that the government reasonably provide for their welfare. It says poorly paid and frustrated cops are less likely to be effective at crime fighting or compliant with human rights. In addition it says low wages also create an environment for corruption, exposing police to the daily seduction of bribes.

Let’s remember this as we helplessly watch Western Jamaica self-destruct. Let’s also heed the searing words of social commentator Nadeen Althia Spence, who invoking the late great Jamaican writer Michelle Cliff, said more than a year ago:

If I could write this with fire I would set ablaze some ideas on this page. I would talk about the black boys in Montego Bay who no longer know the value of life. They don’t know because their black always needed to be qualified for it to become fully ‘smadditized’. It needed land, and money or an accent. When you grow up in communities that are built on captured land, what does it mean for the girls and boys who develop their personhood in a place where land and property and money helps to define your person.

Capture is a legitimate philosophy, because dem nuh own nutten. When Daddy Sharpe led his rebellion, when he set Kensington ablaze the white people in Montego Bay were angry, they punished, maimed and killed, and Daddy Sharpe gave his life in the middle of Sam Sharpe Square Downtown Montego Bay, right across from the Kerr Jarrett’s Town House.

How has Montego Bay changed? Who plans for the children of Sam Sharpe and his soldiers, the Christmas martyrs. Dem used to state of emergency, di blinking city was born in a state of emergency. What they are not used to is justice and equality and rights and development. Give them that Minister, give them justice and mek it stretch back to 1831 and remember Sam Sharpe. Start with the land…mek dem stop capture…because all lotto scam is another capture philosophy…

Some problems are just not the Police’s responsibility or in their capacity to solve, even if they are paid well. There will be no peace without justice and just remuneration for all. Nuff said.

Police Personnel Wanted: Humans Need Not Apply…

A look at the Mario Deane case in Jamaica, the Michael Brown case in the US and the fundamental questions they raise about the Police as a viable, functional arm of governance globally.

Video above features Mario Deane’s parents and Jasmine Rand,one of the lawyers representing the family of slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin, now on the legal team representing Mario Deane along with Michael Baden, an internationally known forensic pathologist who examined Michael Brown’s body in Ferguson.

On the 6th of August, Jamaica’s 52nd anniversary of independence, a young citizen named Mario Deane died while in the custody of Jamaican police. A Montego Bay construction worker, Deane had been detained by Jamaican police for possession of a Ganja spliff or joint on August 3rd. Despite a relative arriving to bail him within a few hours, the police, in what can only be interpreted as an act of malice, denied him bail–a decision that would cost the young man his life. Deane ‘s crime? Supposedly he had insulted the force by saying that he didn’t like the police.

Deane’s death by savage beating–exactly at whose hands is unclear since the first police report said he had died of injuries sustained from a fall from his bunk. This story was later amended with police now reporting that two mentally ill cellmates had administered the fatal beating. From Sunday to Wednesday Deane remained in hospital under heavy police guard, finally succumbing to his injuries on Independence Day.

Jamaican media carried shocking images of Mario lying in hospital with his face swollen beyond recognition and TV and radio interviews with his family members roused the country as no other death in police custody had done before. It wasn’t as if Mario Deane was the first person to lose his life due to the callousness or viciousness of the police, but he was the first to galvanize the nation into a loud and angry refusal to accept what the state was offering in the name of policing.

What makes a particular case pivotal in inciting public protest is always somewhat of a mystery. In India the boiling point was reached in December 2012 with the gruesome gang rape of young Jyoti Singh. The fury with which the public reacted, with middle and upper class women flooding the streets with placards and processions, took everyone by surprise. Foreign commentators mistakenly jumped to the conclusion that the victim must have been middle class, hence the unprecedented public rage. But she was nothing of the sort. What infuriated urban women was the fact that they identified with her, they all had taken buses at one time or another, nothing could have been more innocent than a young woman’s desire to get home safely and her violation hit home like no other case did. It reminded women of how fundamentally unsafe they were, of what a savage and uncaring society they lived in.

Similarly I think the Mario Deane case is one that resonates deeply with many Jamaicans who are moved to think ‘there but for the grace of God go I’. Two decades of campaigning by Jamaicans for Justice, an NGO that militates on behalf of human rights, had never achieved such a unified response although they must be given credit for having prepared the ground by their systematic highlighting of police abuses.

In the public’s view Mario Deane was no criminal, never mind that ganja possession is a crime on the books here. It is so much a part of Jamaican culture that no one views it as a serious infraction. In fact the government is about to decriminalize possession of small amounts such as the spliff Mario was carrying. Identification with Deane was therefore high, he was merely a hard-working construction worker going about his business whose life had been rudely, and permanently, interrupted by the police.

Mario Deane died on August 6. On August 9 an American teenager named Michael Brown was shot down by police in Ferguson, Mississippi.  He was black. The city erupted in fury and for days US news channels focused on little else but the teenager’s death. The fallout from the Mario Deane case was now reinforced by this surprising evidence of virtually identical police brutality in the land of the free and the brave. As Kellie Magnus @kelliemagnus tweeted “sad and odd that this case and mike brown case in US happening same time. Black in US = poor in ja.”

For once the USA found itself on the back foot, promoting human rights globally, but practicing the opposite at home. Critics such as Amnesty International were quick to point this out tweeting that the US couldn’t tell countries to improve their records on policing and peaceful assembly if it didn’t clean up its own human rights record. “Your work has saved far fewer lives than American interventions” shot back The Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) which was soon forced to withdraw its snarky retort. “Our sincerest apologies to @amnesty & our followers. Our last tweet was sent in error. We’re reviewing internal policies for social media,” it tweeted.

The discomfiture of the Americans resonated in Jamaica where only a few weeks ago the Police Commissioner had been forced to step down, it was widely believed at the behest of the USA. How could the Americans tell Jamaica how its police force should be staffed without putting their own house in order?

Meanwhile on Facebook a friend, Olu Oguibe, wrote a punchy update, pointing out the comparatively similar behaviour of police everywhere. “…cops are a united nation unto themselves,” he said:

A Murder in Ferguson

One of my favorite movie moments of all time is in Shrek 2 when police pull over Donkey and Puss in Boots, played by Antonio Banderas, and a police officer puts his hand in Puss’s pocket and comes up with drugs. Realizing he’s just been framed, Puss moans helplessly. “That’s not mine, officer”, he begs, “I swear it, that’s not mine.” You never can win against the police, can you? It’s a policeman’s world.

No sooner it became clear that the officer who choked Eric Garner to death in New York last month might be charged than the guy who recorded the incriminating viral video was suddenly arrested for drug dealing and his girlfriend booked for possession. Now, as Ferguson police reluctantly name the cop who shot young Mr. Brown, under obvious pressure from Washington, they simultaneously tell us the youth was recorded a short while earlier robbing a Deli. He isn’t that nice, innocent lad y’all are shouting about, Police Chief Jackson seems to be saying: he’s just a common criminal and that gives us the right to murder him in cold blood. Sure!
It doesn’t matter what country you’re in, cops are a united nation unto themselves. You never win against cops.
8.15.14

New York Mayor de Blasio’s stipulation following Eric Garner’s death “When a police officer comes to the decision that it’s time to arrest someone, that individual is obligated to submit to arrest,” gave rise to derisive responses such as this one from writer Marlon James:

I think he should go further and give a live demonstration on how a black person, whether it be a robbery suspect or a female University professor should not resist arrest, because clearly the original model, dropping to your knees, holding your hands up, and/or screaming “I’m not resisting,” isn’t working so hot. Perhaps his wife can volunteer to demonstrate it.

Regarding Michael Brown’s murder Marlon James had the following to say:

And yet we all know how this is going to play out, or are we waiting for The Onion story to confirm it? It worked before and will work again and again. Put the black kid on trial for his own murder.

Meanwhile back home in Jamaica the Sunday Gleaner published an expose on what exactly goes on in police detention centres. The description seems to lend credence to police claims that Mario Deane was beaten to death by inmates. Which inmates though? After reading the following account it seems highly unlikely that two mentally challenged inmates would’ve undertaken to beat a fellow inmate to death. And of course it still doesn’t exonerate the police and the country’s justice system. Why are Jamaican citizens being made to risk their lives in such death traps? Why is the police looking the other way while such brutal behaviour goes on under its nose? Whatever happened to the notion of restorative justice?

Detained in a death trap
Gary Spaulding, Aug 31, 2014
According to Brown, the obvious ‘Don’ in the cell instructed the other inmates to, “show dem how we welcome visitors in here”.
“What took place was known as ‘feathering’ or a beating. A horrendous activity any first-timer must face,” said Brown.
“The feathering beating continued throughout the night, but there was no police personnel coming to my rescue. After the welcome, the don instructed the others to give us time to settle in as ‘we ago try dem case lata’,” recalled the still-shaken Brown.
“We – the other newcomers and I – stood there for another 35 minutes hoping that the awful experience would end, but no such luck,” said Brown as he noted that the respite was because the don was on his ‘bird’ or telephone with his girlfriend.
$10,000 to sneak in a phone
Brown said he later learnt that it had cost $10,000 to have the phone sneaked into the cell, one cigarette cost $100 while a small bag of ganja which would sell for $50 on the streets was sold for $300 in the cell.
“With the telephone conversation done, we were asked why we were in jail … the first guy scuffled his way up to the front of the cell and explained, he was feathered to the point of tears. He was later kicked, slapped in the face, and beaten by the cellmates for showing emotions.” All that time, there was no response from the police who are mandated to keep prisoners safe.
Then it was Brown’s turn to ‘take the stand’ and the first question from the don was if he had ever killed anybody. “I said no and was asked why are you here then”.
As Brown explained why he was behind bars, he was instructed to stand before being hit in the chest. Six pairs of hands then started to beat him before they were ordered to stop by the don.
Attention turned to another of the newcomers who told the inmates that he was involved with guns and knives during a robbery in his area.
“He immediately gained some amount of respect and was not feathered during my time there,” said Brown.
“There were 19 of us at the rear of the cell where we slept. It was like an organisational chart in a workplace and you had to work our way to the top.”

On the eve of a new police commissioner being appointed in Jamaica the public must ask if he or she will put a stop to such barbaric behaviour at precincts under control of  the police. Do police personnel here and elsewhere realize what human rights are? Nix that, do they even know what it means to be human?

 

 

“As a Jamaican Negro I know my country well…”

A peep into the history of Jamaica and its Constabulary

While searching for something else I came across this interesting 1938 letter to the editor of the Gleaner taking Alexander Bustamante on about something he had said regarding the officer corps of the Jamaica Constabulary. Apparently he didn’t approve of black or coloured Jamaicans being appointed as Police Inspectors for fear they would abuse their subordinates. Since both Mr. Bustamante and the JC are in the news right now I thought others might find this peep into history interesting as well.

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A Taste of the Vybz Kartel Trial live and by Twitter…

Following the Vybz Kartel murder trial live and on Twitter.

Vybz vs. Kartel: Defending the Controversial Dancehall Star

So I finally made it to the Vybz Kartel Murder Trial this week. Jamaican DJ Kartel and his four co-accused are charged with the murder of Clive Williams aka Lizard, an associate who apparently borrowed two guns from the DJ and was subsequently unable to return them. It is alleged that in retaliation he was murdered by the DJ and his accomplices. In an unprecedented move Kartel and company have been held without bail for two and a half years, while rumours have swirled that the Police had incontrovertible evidence of Lizard’s murder at the hands of Kartel and his friends (despite the fact that to this day Lizard’s body has not been found). The evidence was said to be in the form of text messages, voice messages and videos found on cell phones belonging to the DJ that were taken into custody by the Police when he was arrested on 29 September 2011. There was also a series of text messages sent by Lizard Williams to his girlfriend saying that he feared for his life and begging her to inform the police.

Although some people, like my friend Peter Dean Rickards, remain skeptical of such evidence (“If someone preppin’ to murder me the last thing I’m going to be doing is sending txt messages…maybe I’m different,” he tweeted and “1) we’re talking about Jamaica here 2) no matter where it is, if you are looking at someone getting ready to kill you…do you send txt messages or do something a little more urgent?”) quite a few people have made up their minds that the entertainer is guilty of the crimes he’s accused of. So much for the accused being considered innocent until proven guilty.

Even though a couple of journalists, Emily Crooks for example, have been expertly tweeting the proceedings each day I wanted to observe the trial live and direct for myself. I particularly wanted to see Kartel’s defence lawyer Tom Tavares-Finson in action but as luck would have it I picked a day when he had just finished cross examining a key witness and wasn’t scheduled to be on. Not only that, it turned out to be the very day when the proceedings were so dull and plodding that Kartel himself fell asleep after lunch (see Emily’s tweets below).

Nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed being in court on Wednesday to witness Pierre Rodgers (co-accused Sean Storm’s attorney) systematically pick apart Detective Sergeant Patrick Linton’s testimony. Linton is the former head of the Cybercrimes Unit who downloaded and presented the evidence collected from Kartel’s phones. While waiting for a legal friend to arrive to take me into Courtroom 2 where the Kartel trial was scheduled, I bucked up Supreme Court Judge Bryan Sykes who assured me that I needed no such escort, having a right as a member of the public to attend the trial. That may be true in theory, but in reality entry wasn’t easy.

Had I not been escorted by a legal heavyweight the four heavy set plainclothes policemen outside the courtroom who interrogated us while barring entry would have intimidated me enough to make me leave. Having finally breached the hallowed theatre of justice I was surprised at how small the courtroom was, and intimate; i found myself seated about six feet away from Kartel and within spitting distance of the jury. The DJ wore a shocking pink shirt and orange tie and held a matching orange handkerchief that he occasionally squeezed or twisted in his hands.

I don’t know if there were any other members of the public there, the seats were mostly taken up by plain clothes policeman nattily dressed in suits with different coloured ties and lawyers in their John Crow like robes. Not all the lawyers present were involved with the case, many of them were attending court cases of their own and slipped in and out when time permitted. Legatus Maximus, whose live tweets from the trial i had followed the day before turned out to be one such lawyer.

For those interested in getting a taste of this case and the courtroom action I’ve assembled below a series of tweets from the account of the person tweeting on behalf of Vybz Kartel under the twitter handle @Iamthekartel, followed by some of @Emilynationwide and Legatus Maximus’s tweets capturing some of the action. The main strategy of the Defence this week has been to shake the credibility of Det Sergeant Linton by suggesting that the evidence under his custody was tampered with and unreliable. For a verbatim transcript of the chilling voice notes presented as evidence by the police and much more see Emily Crooks’s blog thecrooksofthematter.

  1. iamthekartel
    Remember dat Babylon have a lot riding on dis case dont xpect them to do the decent thing n admit there is not enuff of a case to continue
  2. Moonie deh home already. One more soon fwd not guilty anyday now. 1 by 1 d whole Gaza crew a fwd home.
  3. Even when not performing, vybzkartel get the most fwd at Sting. Think him need to charge 4 using his name for a Dj to get a fwd
  4. 2014, the yr of freedom.
  5. Incarcerated in 2011.Still gettin nominated 4 awards in 2014!No other human being on the planet can claim that.That is y dem fear d worlboss
  6. 2014 is a landmark year. If allowed the system will pass laws to kill dancehall. Bare jazz fest and Carnival n maybe even some opera fi we
  7. The case is the Crown vs Kartel; no 1 shud b shocked that a ruling by a judge wud favor the CROWN .But all that matters is d jury’s decision
  8. @Warren_Weir This is y d boss sey @Warren_Weir a 1 of d realest yute bout d place. Waterford, cbar n then intl greatness-same path as d boss
  9. An accused by any other name than Adidja Palmer would be home now based on the strange occurrences in this case. pic.twitter.com/9rqHRBMKJI
  10. Warning, this is not a practical joke. This really happened  http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=50459 …. Babylon inform n investigate the passing of a sweetie.
  11. Downtown roads bloc 4 Tessanne official Homecoming tonite.Bigup Tessanne.Wonda how d road dem a aguh stay wen d worlboss ready fi drive home
  12. Stop try blame everything that hapn bad inna Jamaica pon d Gaza. Yes, we confess to mek nuff man gyal give dem bun wid we but a jus we that
  13. “What you have brought to Court is rubbish!!” says the Defence Attorney to the Police in the witness box. Finally sum1 calls a spade a spade
  14. How many ways can Babylon b wrong? Wrong house,wrong dna,wrong name, wrong CD,wrong date of birth,wrong spelling,MUST equal WRONGLY ACCUSED
  15. Not much longer now Gazaarmy. Time running out pon dem. Expect dem to get more desperate n tunup d story telln. But the jury no foolfool
  16. Evidence is like an opinion. One is free to present what they want the jury to believe. Jury will hear both sides n decide what is real.
  17. Back to Court. Few days more before the defence get their turn.
  18. Fair trial includes only using evidence that is in no way exposed to possible tampering.Cuz of Addi d worl see how JA courts work. #fairness
  19. Gaza Fans. Take this seriously. As certain things in this case is clearly being exposed anything name or support Gaza is a target.
  20. From Kentucky Kid to Agana Barnett to Michael Gayle to this. This case shows wat Ghetto yutes have gone thru with d Ja injustice system
  21. Wrong date, wrong machine, wrong terminology, improper chain of custody, no gloves, no dna, no fingerprint – n d man dem still inna jail????
  22. Gaza Army beg u pray fi every ghetto yute inna jail goin to face JA injustice system. From 1865 to Jan 31, 2014 – no justice fi ghetto yutes
  23. Length of court proceedings forces #Kartel to nod off in court. Judge asks ‘accused Palmer is he still before court’ #KartelMurderTrial
  24. #Kartel‘s head was down on his knee making it difficult for the judge to see him. The prosecutor who was on his feet replied…
  25. Taylor – ‘My Lord he is either praying or sleeping’ forcing police in court to awake #Kartel from his afternoon snooze
  26. #KartelMurderTrial updates coming soon. However lawyer for #Kartel, Tom Tavares Finson has just informed me his expert has been detained
  27. Breaking-Phillipots Martin, who’s been charged w hacking DIGI data base is reportedly the expert used by #Kartel‘s lawyers
  28. Major showdown today between bench & bar ie judge and lawyer for #Kartel, Tom Tavares Finson #KartelMurderTrial
  29. Finson objected to Sgt Linton reading a message to jury. He said message read was diff fr what court heard when jury was out today
  30. Finson- ‘My Lord, that is not what was shown when jury was out’ Taylor (prosecutor) ‘this is exactly as in original form’
  31. Finson-‘My Lord, I wish for u to address the jury on the objection I have made and make a ruling’ Judge- ‘I have made a ruling’
  32. Finson- ‘And what is your ruling ‘ Judge – ‘That you are to SIT’ The melanin deficient Finson turned crimson. #JudgeDread
  33. #courtroomchronicles R: on 3rd when u 1st saw SD card did u mention it in ur report? L : no I didn’t. R: isn’t SD card important detail?
  34. #courtroomchronicles R: aren’t u supposed to put all the juicy details in your report? Is it in your statement? L: no I didn’t put it there
  35. #courtroomchronicles R: did u make mention of seeing SD card on the 14th? L: no sir. R: but the 14th is when u started extraction ? L: yes
  36. #courtroomchronicles R: but u made no mention of SD card that day! L: I already cleared that up sir.
  37. #courtroomchronicles R: in failing to mention SD card did u depart from best practice a? L: no counsel.
  38. #courtroomchronicles R: do u agree with me that there is no chain of custody with your SD card? L: no sir. ..
  39. #courtroomchronicles good cross by Rodgers. Devoid of drama …but extremely methodological and effective. He is focused and quite competent
  40. #courtroomchronicles Linton is visibly not as confident as he was yesterday. He no longer sits upright ..but is bent over. Smile forced ..
  41. #courtroomchronicles Rodgers has him against the ropes with the SD card …it really ought to hav been mentioned as it stores much of data
  42. #courtroomchronicles it will be up to Taylor when he re-examines Linton to get evidence out that L could not have put images n vid on phone

Say YES to INDECOM if you want to be taken seriously Mr Crawford–

A Jamaican Minister inexplicably asks for a police oversight body to be shut down. what does this mean??

What a disappointment Member of Parliament and Minister of State for Entertainment & Tourism, Damion Crawford, is turning out to be. Check out his tweet, pictured above, about closing down INDECOM, before its had a real chance to show what it can do. Why such  unseemly haste Mr. Crawford? Why aid and abet police men and women who may be abusing their powers, by shutting down the one agency empowered to investigate police killings and other crimes?

Clovis Toon
Clovis. Jamaica Observer. Nov. 12, 2013

Earlier this year, on May 23 to be precise (the third anniversary of the Tivoli Massacre), a group of us decided to make extra-judicial killings by the police and security forces  the subject of Jamaica’s first  Blogging Day. We did this because the police seemed out of control, there is no accountability for such killings, and no police personnel are ever held responsible, emboldening the police to kill more wantonly, more frequently, more brazenly.

The only ray of hope recently has been the creation 3 years ago of a unit called INDECOM, an independent commission to investigate cases of police abuse, and prosecute officers guilty of corruption and murder. Although their success rate has been less than stellar there has been so much pushback recently from within the police, now escalating all the way to the level of a state minister that it makes you wonder if they may not be on the verge of making an example of some bad cops.

In fact I’m beginning to wonder in the wake of MP Crawford’s astonishing tweet whether what my Labourite friend has been telling me for years isn’t true. He claims that police killings go up astronomically once the PNP are in power, because the police feel licensed to terrorize the population under the guise of hard policing. If this is true then its up to us the citizenry to muzzle those who represent us in Parliament, to let them know in no uncertain terms that we will NOT put up with the casual murder of so many citizens by those the state has hired to protect us.

Some months ago Baroness O’Loan, a former police ombudsman of Northern Ireland spoke in Montego Bay during an Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) Open Day held at the Old Hospital Park. Her speech was reported in the Jamaica Observer and is well worth noting:

“There is an unparalleled level of police shootings in Jamaica,” she said, citing figures in a 2002 paper presented by the local human rights group Jamaican for Justice, which showed that “police killings of civilians were running at around 150 a year.”

“In the 10 years since then that number has almost doubled. In 2011 there were about 210 shootings, in 2012, 219 police fatal shootings and between January and June this year there were 147 fatal shootings by police,” lamented Baroness O’Loan.

Baroness O’Loan said she has worked across the world, even in places like Liberia and in Timor Leste when there was an attempt to assassinate the president, yet she has not seen police fatal shootings in the numbers as she has seen them here.

She underscored the need for a thrust by INDECOM, to not only identify the cops involved in shootings, but also their commanders.

“They will need to see the intelligence or information which the police had before and after the shootings. My experience was that once the police concentrated on proper planning of operations; once they risk-assessed each planned operation and send police officers out — briefed to use minimum force to carry out the arrests or searches — the level of police violence dropped dramatically,” Baroness O’Loan argued.

She noted also that proper proactive police management, modern intelligence-led policing, human rights compliant policing — rather than just sending squads of heavily armed police officers out to do a job — can save lives, and make people more trusting of the police.

“When that happens people support the police more and are prepared to come forward as witnesses, and then the police can do their job better,” she said.

Among other measures she recommended was for Government to increase the staff at INDECOM.

“INDECOM needs more resources. They don’t have enough investigators to do this work. They have only 37. I had 91 in a country with fewer fatal police shootings and a smaller geographical territory and I did not have enough,” Baroness O’Loan argued, adding that civilians and members of the JCF should also report police officers involved in wrongdoing.

Also check out Think Jamaica’s blogpost on INDECOM for more statistics on police killings.

A Hate Story: Reflections on the Death of Dwayne Jones

Jamaican society’s contradictory responses towards its own Trayvon Martins.

gullyqueen2

The Trayvon Martin case has been keenly followed in Jamaica with people vociferously expressing outrage over the not guilty verdict that allowed Zimmerman to walk free. How could there be no legal penalty for unnecessarily taking a human life? How could the law protect Zimmerman’s right to stand his ground but not Trayvon’s? This was madness. Many Jamaicans keenly identified with Trayvon and his family, imagining that this was something that could easily happen to them or their loved ones in racist North America.

All over the Caribbean those with a human rights perspective were eager to point out that similar outrage was rarely forthcoming in numerous local instances of flagrant injustice, often involving victims of police and vigilante killings where the perpetrators are almost never held responsible for their crimes. Why were such folk, unmoved by the wanton killing of fellow citizens in their own backyard, so willing to take such an interest in a case so distant from their immediate lives and localities?

Clearly we must attribute some or most of that interest to the intense coverage of the case by mainstream media in the United States. Channels such as CNN, MSNBC, ABC and others are available via cable and voraciously consumed in Jamaica and many other parts of the world. It’s not difficult to get sucked in by the wall-to-wall coverage of a murder trial for weeks on end, particularly when its racial component resonates locally. This was the case with the murder of Trayvon Martin.

Let’s also give credit where credit is due. American media excel at focusing attention on the human interest in a story; at laying open the lives and personalities of those concerned, at making the viewer identify with the principals of a high profile news item. This is why the world cares more about 500 victims of a natural disaster in the US as opposed to 150,000 deaths caused by a Bangladeshi cyclone or an earthquake in Turkey.  American media puts faces on the victims, details their losses, personalizes them. The 150,000 victims of a distant cyclone remain just that—faceless, lifeless, abstract ciphers.

Not many countries have the sheer heft of media muscle that the USA can lay claim to. Our media in small places like Jamaica lack the infrastructure, the traction and the reach of American media. We also have far more deaths, murders and killings per capita than the media can possibly keep up with even if they had the will and the ability to do so.

Even in the United States there were complaints that cases just as heinous as Trayvon Martin’s or worse had received little or no visibility and thus generated little or no outrage. What makes a particular story a media sensation depends on the number of people who feel affected by it. Can they can identify with it?   But this is also a function of how much airtime and column inches the story receives.

In Jamaica the media almost never gives you enough information or gives it to you after the fact as in the case of the Brissett Brothers accused of the vicious rape of 4 women and an 8-year old girl. Now that DNA evidence has proven that they couldn’t have been the perpetrators the media has interviewed them at length, along with their family members who had given them a cast iron alibi, and basically got the story out. Had there been no DNA evidence the brothers would have been wrongfully convicted raising uncomfortable questions about how many such innocent people there are in prison.

The ongoing saga of Vybz Kartel raises similar questions. One murder charge has completely crumbled and the other may do the same, yet Kartel has been held without bail for more than a year now.

Alexis Goffe,  a spokesperson for the human rights group Jamaicans for Justice, recently observed that another reason there is little or no outrage about the legion of local Trayvons is that in these situations most educated Jamaicans identify with Zimmerman rather than Trayvon. Jamaicans are not Trayvon Martin, Jamaicans are George Zimmerman said Goffe.  After all Trayvon’s profile fits that of the ‘idle youth’ most gated and residential communities in Jamaica remain wary of and police zealously. They want the Jamaican equivalents of Trayvon Martin to be kept in their place, on pain of severe punishment and even death. Since the start of the year Jamaican Police have killed 114 citizens, yet it’s business as usual in this tourist paradise.

For most Jamaicans such deaths when they happen are non-stories–like the slaying of young Dwayne Jones aka Gully Queen a few days ago near Montego Bay. 17-year old Jones was at a party on the night of July 22 dressed as a female and dancing when he was outed by a woman who knew he was cross-dressing. Details are sketchy but early reports said that Jones was killed by a mob that stabbed and shot him to death, flinging his body into nearby bushes.

In most countries a lynching such as this would be front-page news but not in Jamaica, known far and wide for its hostility towards homosexuals. The police have said that they can’t prove that there is a link between Dwayne’s cross-dressing and his murder and the media has barely taken note of the gruesome slaying. Judging by comments made on social media most Jamaicans think Dwayne Jones brought his death on himself for wearing a dress and dancing in a society that has made it abundantly clear that homosexuals are neither to be seen nor heard.

Attempts to portray the mob killing as a hate crime have also been futile. “Dwayne Jones chose to tempt fate” seems to be the popular feeling, “and he got what was coming to him.” Which is like saying Trayvon Martin tempted fate by lingering in the wrong neighbourhood; he got what was coming to him. Dwayne Jones decided to wear a dress and dance and for that he was put to death by a motley crowd. Most Jamaicans seem to think there is nothing at all wrong with this judging by the lack of outrage, scant media attention and silence from the political directorate.

Ja Blog Day 2013: Police & Security Force Abuse–“wi a pay unno fi murder wi!”

Poster by Michael Thompson, Freestylee
Poster by Michael Thompson, Freestylee

policeabuse

Mark Shields @marxshields
So NYPD, Boston PD and London Met Police, plus 1,000s more police depts ALL use Twitter. Come on #JCF – keep up. No cost, just results.

Mark Shields @marxshields
#JCF seethis “@NYPDnews: Male wanted for armed robbery, demanded cash, W 26 St & 9 Ave 5/19 1:20pm #10Pct #800577TIPS ”

RMA#872-13 ROBBERY 10PCT 5-19-13 (1).jpg

 

Mark Shields @marxshields
#JCF and this: Officers investigating disorder during FA Cup Semi-Final at Wembley Stadium have released 16images flickr.com/photos/metropo…”

Michael Mitchell @MichaelAssured
@marxshields @MizDurie As long as they focus on crime-fighting instead of crime-solving, #JCF will NOT see [or] appreciate benefits of Twitter.

I open this post by quoting Mark Shields, the colourful English policeman who was loaned to the Jamaican police force some years ago, along with several of his colleagues, in a vain effort to combat the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s chronic problems with corruption, rogue cops and inefficacy to the point of stultification. Let’s get a sense of the depth of the problem by looking at this quote from the British policeman:

“When I first got here, there was a very inward-looking, nepotistic culture. They were hated by most of the public in Jamaica, because fatal shootings were running at a ridiculously high rate, corruption was out of control, from top to bottom. Anything from allowing drugs to be brought on to the island, and turning a blind eye for a cut, to police officers contracted to kill other criminals, anything you can think of, they did.”

Even the officers trying their best were struggling in a system that would have looked old-fashioned a century ago. “It was appalling. An exhibit such as a bullet fragment would be put into a paper brown envelope, and then they would get a red wax seal and stamp it on the back like something out of the Napoleonic war. I’m serious. So you would have this old envelope with a Napoleonic seal on the back, and that’s your exhibit.” Fingerprints were stored on cards, with no digital database; crimes were laboriously recorded by hand in big old dusty ledgers. “They would just say, that’s how we do it…”

As you can imagine there was a lot of resistance to the British imports into the JCF. Most of them have served their time and moved on but Shields, known as @marxshields on Twitter, is still here working privately as a security consultant. Ever one for upgrading to new technologies, in recent times he has been urging the JCF to start using DNA testing and Twitter, the detective’s tool par excellence, one i myself have been recommending to both my academic colleagues and the journalistic community in Jamaica for years. The reason? It’s the latest, most innovative means of news and information-gathering, like tapping into a vast reservoir, a virtual motherlode of data waiting to be mined; at the same time it offers conduits to reach multiple networks, to crowdsource whatever it is you need or just to transmit your message far and wide.

Has anyone seen this ‘Male wanted for armed robbery’? Here’s the picture we have of him. or Does anyone know where this place is? with a photo attached to it will bring in valuable responses that may very well help solve your research problem if you’re an academic or the crime if you happen to be a member of the Police Force. If you wanted to know for instance how many police forces around the world are already using Twitter you would post a tweet like this: Are the #police in YOUR country using Twitter yet? Please use #smartpolicing when replying. The hashtag ‘smartpolicing’ would collect answers from all around the world which could then be separately verified for accuracy.

But as @MichaelAssured pointed out the JCF will only realize the value of Twitter if they accept that their mandate is crime-‘solving’ rather than crime-‘fighting’.

With crime as rampant as it is in Jamaica and the Jamaican police specializing in crime-fighting you would think that they’d be experts at it now, neatly taking out criminals as they encounter them but no! Unfortunate citizens who happen to be in the vicinity of suspects will be taken out too; when questions are raised ‘collateral damage’ will be mentioned as in Tivoli Gardens three years ago to the day, when local security forces (army and police with benign technical assistance from the US) breached the barricaded community in search of the most wanted Don in the history of Jamaica–Christopher “Dudus” Coke.

In the days that followed 73 plus civilians were killed, no Don was found and despite claims by the armed forces that they were fighting heavily armed gangs loyal to Dudus only 6 guns were recovered. But let’s not rehash history. We are using the unfortunate events of May 23rd to catapult this first Ja Blog Day and to focus collectively on the problem of policing here and the wanton slaughter of Jamaican citizens.

The extra-judicial killings are too numerous to itemize here. I will pick just one to focus on because it illustrates the problem really well. It’s the case of Matthew John Lee, a generous young middle class boy, who gave two less fortunate friends a ride one day. The police descended on them as they drove through an affluent community many of us traverse daily and after the usual controversial ‘encounter’ all three were shot dead in broad daylight. I won’t repeat the details here because they were very well captured in this video footage of a show called Impact in which journalist Cliff Hughes explored the case with family members and the President of Jamaicans for Justice, Carolyn Gomes.

I deliberately cite the case of Matthew Lee because he was not a ghetto youth, the perennial victims of encounters with the police. He was a young middle class youth, a former junior hockey champion, a citizen in good standing, yet the police didn’t bat an eyelid in killing him. This suggests that a new frontier has been reached and those of us who think our elite status will give us immunity from the violence that stalks the land please take note. They came for Keith Clarke in the wee hours of the morning, they came for Matthew Lee in broad daylight and they will come for you and me whenever they please. Welcome to a reality the poor in Jamaica have always known–the Police/Armed forces are not in control–they are completely OUT of control. “Wi a pay uuno fi murder wi,” as one such hapless citizen remarked.

I close with an extended quote from a former policeman who has penned a tell-all book, soon to be published, which tells it like it is from the inside. I won’t disclose his name right now but do read the excerpt below. The incident described happened in the 90s. I warn you that it contains material that may not be suitable for children or the squeamish. It’s a measure of the problem we now face.

Most cops see the ghetto man as wicked, murderous, and criminal. And so he greets him with that mindset. He doesn’t see conditions; he sees an obstruction to peace and quiet. He sees the ghetto man as an animal that should be slaughtered as soon as possible. I was one of those cops. I was especially resentful of ghetto dwellers when I had had a few drinks. I abused them, kicked them, punched them and made them crawl in the gutters. I was indoctrinated not just by other police officers but by society at large. I did not like these youths who dressed outrageously and smoked weed and bleached and twisted their hair and wore earrings and nose rings. I was programmed to see them as nonentities, but the intelligence and wit of the ghetto man, his will to survive, his courage to face the bullets, baton and jailhouse was enough to open my eyes.

Sometimes it takes the death of another to open your eyes. I witnessed the killing of a ghetto man by one of my patrol member and it changed my perception of people from ghettos forever. That martyr’s death was the beginning of the end for me as a police officer. It wasn’t going to be the last of such incidents I would see but it remains the most senseless act of wanton cruelty I have ever experienced. The incident keeps replaying in my mind year after year and up to this day I feel motivated to speak out against it, to bring closure to this tragedy, to have that murderer in uniform face the Courts, to have the family of that young man compensated and consoled for what I consider a calculated, pre- meditated, cold blooded murder.

It was about midday when I received a call on my portable radio to assist another patrol in my vicinity. Along with my three army personnel, we covered ground quickly. On reaching we saw a young man with a broken machete in his waist trying to elude the grasp of some angry soldiers. It was in the Coronation Market area and the higglers were shouting to the cops and soldiers that the man was mentally challenged. The man seemed to be in his early twenties and was dressed in a pair of dirty short pants. The only weapon he had was the machete in his pants waist.

The soldiers from the other patrol tried surrounding him, but every time one grabbed at him he would step into the running sewage by the side of the road. Suddenly I saw a soldier take aim at him with his SLR rifle and open fire. The man fell into the sewage with half his face blown away. I saw one of the soldiers in my team holding his neck. The bullet had gone on to graze him. I watched the sewage turned red. As the bloody liquid passed me I saw the front teeth of the dead youth along with gum and top lip drifting along. I watched in shock as the young man’s body quivered and he clawed the ground trying desperately to hold onto a life that had long left him. Some people were shouting, “murder” and others were just screaming. Market stalls were overturned as people ran in all directions, some running towards the scene and others running away from it. I remembered just standing there staring, immobilized by this display of wanton cruelty. I looked at the soldier who had fired and I could see the fear in his eyes. He was swinging the rifle from left to right as if he expected the crowd to storm him. I crouched and walked away, but looked again at the body of the young man in his half pants, the machete still in his waist.

His killing did something to me; it tore me apart, for I was a part of this unwarranted and brutal abuse. I represented the group the soldier came from and I felt shame, anger and confusion all in one. The victim was mentally challenged, he was ill, he was helpless and he was murdered for it. I felt sick to the pit of my stomach. The soldier with the grazed neck was beside me and he was still touching the spot where the bullet had grazed him. He too was muttering his disapproval of the killing.

When I returned to our base in downtown Kingston I saw the soldier who had pulled the trigger. I walked straight up to him, looked him in the eye and asked him why. He never answered. I don’t even know if he heard me. But the real shocker came when I discovered that I was perhaps the only one there who didn’t think he was a hero. Everyone else was congratulating and cheering him on. I was told later that this was not his first killing or murder, as one officer audaciously put it. By now rioting had started and we were summoned to the streets again, this time to quell the rioting.

I looked at the killer once more but he didn’t look at me. He pretended to be distracted by the noise outside. He was sweating, and there was fright in his eyes. This was the first time I was looking in the eyes of a murderer, and he didn’t have twisted hair or earrings, he wasn’t dressed outrageously, or have bleached skin. He was a soldier, not the usual demonic ghetto inhabitant.

It was painful to use physical force to disperse the mob that had gathered outside our command post but I had to do it. It was painful because I understood their hurt, their anger. They cursed me too, they called me ‘dutty murdering police bwoy’; some accused us of having strength only for ‘mad’ people and I will never forget the female voice that shouted above the rest “wi a pay unno fi murder wi,” That was the statement of the day, for it was true, it was shamefully true.

I left the scene that evening with my team, found a bar and drank for the rest of the afternoon. Later that night there was a news report that a man of ‘unsound mind’ was killed when he attacked members of the security forces with a machete. That was the moment it dawned on me that something was very wrong with the approach and conduct of the security forces. It was the beginning of the end for me.