This old building situated at 103 Old Hope Rd. Kingston still houses the Offices of the Commissioner of police and the 911 call center that manages all emergency calls for the country.
Recently we spoke about the despicable position taken by Earl Witter Jamaica’s public Defender regarding police officers.Witter shares the view as does Carolyn Gomes head of (JFJ) that police officers do not get shot proportionally with the amount of criminals they shoot.
Many criticize me for standing with police officers, and as such I want to be real clear where I stand. As a little boy growing up I recall police officers killing a young Rastafarian man simply because he ran. He was asleep on a counter in his father’s shop where other men were playing cards, the police just happened to make their bi-annual visit to the district that night, everyone shouted police, abruptly awakened from a deep sleep he ran from his house and was shot dead. Nothing ever came of his killing!!!!
The Jamaican historical landscape is replete with similar stories of instances of abuse by those who took an oath to protect and serve. If we told a thousand stories similar to this one it would not be overemphasizing that this is a problem, and so those whom are tasked with investigating , and lobbying for the use of less lethal force must be supported where practicable.
With that said if we do not support the rule of law where does it leave us? As a young nation it will not be easy to get to first world status by pretence, neither will we get there without adhering to the rule of law. As we hold our police feet to the fire of accountability , we must steadfastly demand adherence to the rule of law from all citizens. It is dangerous to believe we can have a stable country if we tear down the rule of law and those who enforce them . If we believe we can gain safety by siding with criminals we are woefully misguided, a scorpion is a scorpion and it will sting.
I served in the JCF and walked away years ago. I will forever be proud of the service I gave to my country in that capacity, if anything I feel indebted to my country for having allowed me to serve. I have met many wonderful people who were exemplary human beings, some not so much. Many have paid the ultimate price, many still serve. One thing is certain I never saw a rich person’s child in the JCF, many feel their kids are too good to serve as police officers. Because of that I personally refused to serve them ,so I left. Until the mentality of the Jamaican people change to reflect the realities of the 21st century, Police officers will continue to feel under siege and they will lash out. Policing is a covenant between officers and the people, much like governance, each party has to hold up their end of the bargain. Earl Witter:Gomes:
Public Defender Earl Witter is supporting a directive from Police Commissioner Owen Ellington for cops to exercise restraint and avoid using unnecessary lethal force in confrontations with criminals.
But Witter says criminals should also refrain from attacking police personnel, so the cops are not placed in a position to use lethal force.
According to Witter this could help stem the unending flow of allegations of police excess and abuse.
Witter says this would also reduce the complaints to the public defender, the Independent Commission of Investigations and other organisations as well as end the costly and unnecessary drain upon the nation’s meagre resources.
Witter made the appeal in a media release in which he condemned the attack on a policeman in Bathsheba, St. Elizabeth on Tuesday.
Corporal Anthony Watson had reportedly gone to arrest a wanted man for illegal wounding, when he was chopped on the arm by the machete wielding man.
The public defender says the incident highlights the perils faced daily by police personnel in the execution of their duty.(Jamaicagleaner story)
I HAVE CONSISTENTLY ARGUED THAT ALLEGATIONS OF EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLINGS BY JAMAICAN POLICE OFFICERS CONTRARY TO PERCEPTION, IS NOT LARGELY THE FAULT OF THE POLICE DESPITE GRAND PRONOUNCEMENTS FROM AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL AND THEIR SURROGATES JAMAICANS FOR JUSTICE.
For years I have argued that the problem of police killings are not totally the fault of the police. Crawling out of every woodwork are supposed witnesses to these acts, I am not in a position these days to indict nor confirm if these cases are true or not. What I do know is neither are the detractors of the police.
Local groups like Jamaicans for justice which professes to be legitimate human rights groups, have compromised their legitimacy based on their fixation on allegations of police abuse. Stake holders are now taking a deeper look at their operations and are coming away with the conclusion I came to years ago. Simply put JFJ is a group that looks out for the rights of criminals. There are many who correctly argue that criminals have rights too. I totally agree that they do . I simply refuse to pay attention to their rights over the rights of their victims.
Make no mistake, police officers do kill people illegitimately. Even though many would have you believe that police killings are confined to Jamaican cops, the facts do not bear out those assertions. Police Departments all over the world have to deal with officers killing civilians under questionable circumstances.
This does not excuse the police from what critics refer to as heavy-handed tactics by police departments the world over. The United States of America with its thousands of police departments, is certainly not immune to harsh criticism of heavy-handed tactics by police officers in areas where there are large population density and racial diversity. What is an absolute fact is that groups like Amnesty International and other human rights groups, do not influence how investigations are done, and they certainly do not get to influence prosecution of police officers when they take action in the line of duty, regardless of public outcry.
There are no rush to arrest, there are no rush to impugn the integrity or motive of officers because any group says so, while there are yet investigations going on. Amnesty International which has tremendous influence and leverage in small developing countries like Jamaica, are largely silent , and are nowhere to be found when blacks and Latinos complain about police killings in the United States Canada and their base country Britain.
From the sadomizing of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima in a New York police station to 41 shots fired at unarmed African immigrant Amadou Diallo snuffing out his life , to the scores and scores of other questionable killings by police in New York city alone they are silent,impotent and nowhere to be found.
Yet these same people have gone to Jamaica and other countries in which they seek relevance and distorted the truth to support the angle they want to advance. No antagonist group foreign or local, has sought to get the perspective of the principal players in the whole affair, the Jamaica constabulary force. And I do not mean the gazetted ranks ,who are generally second-rate civil servants , removed from the streets , heavily contaminated by politics and the desire for their own survival to be considered objective representatives of the police force.
Each country has its own unique problems , as such each nation’s problems must be addressed in a unique manner. Jamaica’s criminals are extremely savvy, they understand the value of perception, they understand the value of good press and they play to those understandings. People in depressed neighborhoods are pressured to go out and demonstrate against police, they are forced through fear or cohesion to attest to seeing things that later demonstrable turn out to be lies.
Garrison communities have professional mourners who on que, delve into mourning for the cameras, but revert to socializing as soon as cameras are turned off or removed, these are factual happenings within Jamaica’s inner cities, yet these very people become witnesses for groups like Amnesty International and their surrogates. Their testimonies have formed the frame-work for extensive and expansive documents on which Jamaica and it’s security apparatus is judged.
Not to be outdone foreign television networks have joined the bandwagon. Television networks like al Jazeera and ITN have found it necessary to criticize police in Jamaica using the same sources others use. I reference Al Jazeera because no one in their right mind take what they have to say seriously . When one considers what happens in Arab nations as it relates to civil rights particularly as it relates to women. It is astounding that Al-Jazeera would find time to criticize others. These are people who mostly operate in the 12th century but have the gall to criticize our country’s security forces for sensational and ratings purposes. They dare not question their own despotic regimes regarding their atrocious human rights record. As such let us fall back and without denying that we have a problem, not overreact throwing out the baby with the proverbial bath-water.
Those who understand the utmost importance of the rule of law, also understand that they will not be able to convince every one of the need to be supportive of police and the rule of law. It is important that those who risk being called snitches, informers, and whatever other names are out there, do so with the knowledge that some people will have to be dragged along, others nudged, and others coaxed along. After all, we all have differing opinions, and appropriately so.
If our people are to be lifted out of ignorance and despair . If they are to be freed from the shackles of generational politics which condemns them to voting the same way ,cycle after cycle for the same people, and then their children. If their lives are to be changed so they too have a shot at getting an education the only real way out of poverty, then we have to lower crime. Jamaicans if not for country, must for themselves, recognize that investment that fuels growth shuns crime. Investors must feel relatively safe, if they are not totally safe they must feel that political leadership is doing what it takes to reverse crime and root out corruption. Jamaicans will have to recognize the government will not be their savior, there really can never be enough government jobs to go around. Secondly government jobs are fuelled by monies coming in from the private sector. The absense of a vibrant private sector because of crime, those government jobs dissapear really fast. Simply put it is impossible to pay government workers without a sustainable stream of cash coming in.
The Jamaican people cannot expect to pretend to want security if they are unprepared to share the responsibility of looking out for themselves. The nonsensical notion of no snitching, no informing, made popular by even more ignorant dance hall artists must be shunned . The only beneficiaries are the criminals who exert control of their lives, through fear, intimidation, fuelled by the people’s own silent acquiescence.
I lost three colleagues whose memories will forever remain with me.
Constable R Seivright:Motorized Patrol.
Detective constable Cowan: Western Kingston.
Sergeant Leroy Steele:Eastern Kingston:
These were three of the best men, jovial ,loved their job, the best our country had to offer . Why do I mention these three? These were three of the officers that were closest to me, we had attended the Academy together , gone through the ups and downs of spending a full year between Port Royal and Twickenham Park together. Our group was the last to have been at the former Port Royal facility, but was forced to move as the decision was made to move police training to the former Jamaica school of Agriculture.
As recruits it was a tumultuous, but fun period for us, we were involved in the literal movement of the school. because of the protracted demands of the moving process, we spent a full year in the training facility, an exception not the rule. To this day we still take great pride in the fact that we were the last batch of recruits at Port Royal and the first batch to be trained at the Jamaica Police Academy.
Constable Seivright was a young man always smiling, as soon as you came face to face with Seivright his face lit up in an ear to ear smile, he believed fundamentally in his christian faith, he was one of the only recruits to have taken his Bible with him to training school. From the onset many of us thought that Seivright was too quite, too accommodating to all to be effective as a police officer in the criminal jungle which is our country. In the 80’s little did we know that our country would be getting worse than what we saw then. Unfortunately we were right Seivright was far too good. One night as he walked up to a cab they pulled over on the Mandela Highway and leaned over to say hello a passenger opened up with a sterling sub-machine gun killing him on the spot. Constable Seivright never had the privilege of being issued with a bullet proof vest.
Steele and Cowan gave their lives much the same way . They died believing that they could reason with people. They bought the lie that people will respect them enough not to attack them because they were cops. Both paid the ultimate price because they bought into the lies that Jamaican people will respect anything but hard-nosed policing.
Community policing is the prefered form of policing, I embrace it fully, however it is naive’ and disingenous to suggest or infer that community policing can achieve any measurable result in Jamaica’s urban communities. First the terrorists hiding there must be removed then community officers are inserted to interact with the people. But it must be clear, those who harbor criminals will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.