Columns

We need to respect the police too

By BRIAN LYNCH

Tuesday, February 05, 2013    

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It has been reported that over the past decade the police is responsible for killing over 10,000 Jamaican citizens. Since that report, many have made several negative and irresponsible remarks towards the police. Some went as far as calling for the government to disband the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).

Those who are calling for the government to disband the JCF are rushing to judgment. It is obvious that a large number of the Jamaican citizenry are against the police. Ironically, they are doing the same thing that they are accusing the police of. No one is waiting on a thorough investigation that would exonerate or incriminate the police before labeling them as murderers.

It is strongly possible that members of the JCF shoot first and ask questions later. However, we as citizens must remain objective until all evidence are examined and properly expatiated.

I listened as a high ranking member of the police (SSP Thompson) was questioned by a reporter while being interviewed about the recent spate of police shootings. He was asked if he was satisfied with the fact that 22 persons have been killed by police in 24 days. I could tell that SSP Thompson was trying his best to assuage public rhetoric while defending the police. However, if I were in his position, the following would have been my response to such a question: "Yes, I am satisfied. We are all making assumptions and if so, we must give the police the benefit of the doubt until they are proven otherwise."

The question however was untimely, being that there are no reports on whether or not the shootings were justified or any members of the JCF will be charged.

The media seems not to be doing its job. The media of any nation is obligatory to provide the truth to its public. I must say that the Jamaican media is lacking in such regard. What we have been seeing from most of the media is suppositions that are only infuriating an already fragile situation. I do agree that the media has to report, but when your reports are taking sides then you are not doing your job. The media can do and must do a lot more to facilitate a better relationship between the police and the communities they serve. We must remember that our men and women who wear the uniform are humans equally prone to mistakes. Therefore we must not be so quick to chide them. It is imperative that we constantly remember the best policing are done by members of the community and not the police force.

The Jamaican citizenry seems to support criminality rather than being repulsed by it. I say that based on some key observation that I have made over the past few years. For the sake of conversation, I will list one of them. On a bright Monday morning while traversing through downtown Kingston, I observed two police officers as they stopped to converse with a motorist who was illegally parked. While he was sitting quietly in his vehicle, apparently admitting his wrong, a man walking by said to the police personnel "lef di man alone, di man jus a try fi eat a food". Right away the police stopped him. I wasn't close enough to hear what the officer said to him but he shouted in response "a tief yuh fi guh look fah". The officer held on to him and almost instantly a large crowd gathered around blocking my view so I crossed the street to get a better view. "Lego di man" one man shouted as he drew nearer.

Before I state the outcome, I want you to visualise the entire scene and then ask yourself the following question. Would you want someone coming to your job telling you how to do it while you are in the middle of making critical decisions? I am sure your answer is no and if so, why do we constantly do it to our police officers.

Yes, they are on the street but ladies and gentlemen, that is their place of work. They are at work and it is our responsibility to allow them to do their job. We constantly hear people complaining that the police do not know how to communicate with the people. If that is true the following is also true, the people do not know how to communicate with the police. Many of us think that we must intervene whenever we see police officers doing their jobs. How can you do that not knowing what is going on? There is a time and place for our input however it is never while the officers are in the middle of doing their job.

I promised to tell you the outcome and that I will. The motorist was let go because he was smart enough to keep quiet but his unsolicited loud-mouth 'lawyer' and his assistant were arrested, apparently for obstruction of due process of law.

I could easily list several similar incidents that I have come across where the public make it their business to intervene while our trained officers are doing their jobs but I believe I made my point.

It is crucial to remember that our policemen and women operate in an extremely volatile environment where brazen criminals are not afraid to kill them. There is no amount of training that can remove fear from their minds. The best training only prepares them to react rationally whenever they are confronted by violence. The fact that they are humans means that they will not always make the best decision especially when their own lives are on the line. We must therefore support our men and women and respect them for bravely taking on such a daunting task for the mere pittance that they are paid.

Crime in Jamaica can be reduced but we must first form a partnership with our police force. Currently we have an estrange relationship that needs to be repaired. If we continuously chide them, the result will be devastating to us. In order to repair such relationship and remove corruption, it is important to stop alienating our officers. When a better relationship is formed, the uncorrupt officers will feel free to come forward and help remove those who are perverting the system. This is not happening now simply because we have tossed them all in one barrel and cast them off in the river as a barrel of rotten fishes. If and when we repair this relationship, Jamaica will see a reduction not only in police shootings but also in crime.

It is our responsibility to support those we charge with the duty of protecting us. Yes, we must rebuke their wrongdoings, but certainly not in the manner that we have been doing it over the years. It is the reason why there's constant discord between the people and the police.

The media, leaders of Jamaicans for Justice, INDECOM, and others must lead with better example and that is to allow the process of justice to take its course before chiding the police in the manner they have. It is obvious that such comments only create separation and lack of trust between the police and the people. Crime can be reduced but it will take more than just the police to fight it.

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