Pepper Spraying Incident Shines Light On Shortcomings

By now every person and their mother have seen this unfortunate video. I was surprised at the escalation of this incident, but I will be constrained in what I say here as this incident is fresh and still under investigation. In the interest of full disclosure, I know Parro Campbell, I worked alongside Parro Campbell, he is my friend. I trusted him with my life.
With that said, I will try my best to be objective and treat Mister Campbell as every Jamaican citizen ought to be treated when they are stopped by the police.
It is also important to remember that we do not know what transpired before the young son of mister Campbell started rolling the camera. As such we should look at the demeanor of the officer and the motorist, mister Campbell.
There was no yelling going on by either actor and as we heard mister Campbell’s son conceded, his dad had overtaken a line of vehicles, not necessarily an infraction if it is done safely and in a place where he had a clear line of vision, and is allowed to overtake.
Nevertheless, it clearly was enough to get mister Campbell pulled over by the officer.

Now, I am a former police officer long removed from enforcing the laws, so where I may misinterpret the laws please do not be too harsh with the cussing.
If the officer asked the motorist for his driver’s license and the motorist says he does not have it on him. He should ask if the motorist has any other form of identification by which he may be identified.
If the motorist does not, then he must produce the registration and proof of insurance upon which the officer would enquire whether the motorist is the registered owner of the vehicle. If the motorist answers in the affirmative then the officer would then ask for his name and date of birth, and match it against the information on the insurance and registration documents. The officer then goes ahead and write the citation/s for which the motorist was initially pulled over.
It is important that as long as the motorist does not obstruct the officer, by not supplying the other documents, (a-la, insurance cert., registration, etc) then the motorist has (5) days to produce his driver’s license to a police station of his convenience. Those are the dictates of the Road Traffic Act.

So let’s go back to the video, the officer asked the motorist for his driver’s license and was told the motorist does not have one on him.
There are several things which went wrong as the incident escalated out of control, but I will not litigate the video because I believe there is one sticking point here which negates everything else.
The officer went from asking for the motorist drivers license to threatening…….Arrest.
It seems to me that the motorist, a former police officer, knew that the officer had erred and was humoring the uniformed officer because he knew that the officer really had no power of arrest on the issue.My personal knowledge of the motorist tells me that in typical fashion mister Campbell would have jokingly showed the officer the error of his ways given time.
This brings me to the point I want to make. An officer is most effective, not when he is the most determined, even though I respect a determined officer, he is most effective when he is right on the law he is enforcing.
Since this incident, I have read hundreds of comments and heard dozens of points of view from past and present members, I have come away even more convinced than before, that we are not training our police in a way that is commensurate with the complexities of the times.
If the other constable on the scene knew the traffic law he should have pulled his colleague aside and walk him back from his immediate demand that the motorist exit his vehicle.
Obviously, he wasn’t up to speed on his powers under the law either, or he did not have the esprit de corps to care about the proceedings. He was basically a disinterested party and that is equally as dangerous as the ignorance of the (RT Act) displayed in that unfortunate video recording.
As we get closer to robotic cops enforcing traffic laws in the powerful industrial nations, it is imperative that we equip our human officers so that they do not find themselves in situations like this one.
There will be a gazillion opinions on who did what, or what should have been done differently,(mine included), that’s okay, but at the end of it all, this matter rests on the (RT Act), not on our opinions.
An officer cannot go from requesting a motorist’s driver’s license to threatening arrest. More and more citizens are becoming more and more educated on the laws, they understand the protections they have under the laws, so the police officer*must* be fully conversant of his powers when he deals with the public.

Since this Article was first published, additional research have revealed that a new Road Traffic Act has been drafted to replace the old one.
The new Road Traffic Bill, which will repeal and replace the existing 1938 Act, was passed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (February 6-2018).
Offenses under the Bill include: driving without required motor vehicle insurance coverage ($20,000); driving a motor vehicle without being the holder of a permit or driver’s licence ($40,000); failure of driver to obey traffic light ($24,000); loud noises within silence zones and failure to wear a protective helmet ($5,000); failure to comply with traffic signs ($10,000); and failure to stop at pedestrian crossings ($12,000).
It is not fully clear whether or not the new law is already in effect, although we have been informed that it isn’t.However we have been unable to independently confirm whether it is in fact in effect. If it is in effect, it does put the uniformed officer in a different and better light.

Mike Beckles is a former Jamaican police corporal, business owner, avid researcher, and blogger. He is also a black achiever honoree, and publisher of the blog You may subscribe to his blogs free of charge.

2 thoughts on “Pepper Spraying Incident Shines Light On Shortcomings

  1. No, it doesn’t put the officer in a better light. It said driving without a permit or driver’s license $40,000. It didn’t say arrest. The officer should have issued a traffic violation ticket. He’s still in the wrong.

    1. The new (RT-Act) which will repeal and replace the Act of 1939 would have placed the officer in a better light, as it removes the five-day off-ramp which previously allowed a motorist time to produce his/her drivers’ license.
      The new Act would have removed certain protocols which the officer would be forced to follow before getting to an arrest.
      That new Act is not in effect so the old Act is still the law. This makes the officer still bound by the protocols of the old act, which is to give the motorist time to produce.

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