Crass behaviour by police personnel dilutes promise to serve and protect

BY JEDIAEL CARTER
Staff reporter
carterj@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, November 12, 2017

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To serve and protect, that's their mantra. But many Jamaicans feel underserved by some members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), who display dismissive and disrespectful behaviour toward citizens.

Whether it is to receive assistance, ask a question or report a crime, Jamaicans have been snubbed by JCF members islandwide, many have complained.

Fresh allegations surfaced last week in the western parish of Trelawny where the mother of a boy, aged seven, said she was verbally abused when she went to report an incident but was instead arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

The woman reportedly went to the station to report that her son was assaulted at a primary school in the parish. The child was reportedly held down by other students who then inserted a stick into his rectum.

The police's account stated that the woman was arrested because the distraught mother, who is often at the station claiming to report matters, became boisterous, using indecent language while she waited to be addressed.

Her statement was not taken by the police.

In a separate incident, one woman recounted how police personnel at the Duhaney Park Police Station were dismissive.

She told the Jamaica Observer that she went seeking information about the procedure to have police representatives speak at the Career Day for her daughter's school.

“I was in the station for a while waiting to be acknowledged, and I could see the officers playing dominoes,” she related. “When they finally came I got the impression that I was interrupting their game.”

According to the mother, it was upon taking the child with her to the station and interacting with another woman corporal, who this time was at the front desk, that they decided to assist her.

“They were nice the second time but the first time I went, I felt dismissed,” she said.

The JCF's Public Interaction Policy outlines guidelines for police action when citizens attend stations requesting police service — the police must “acknowledge the individual within two minutes” and greet the individual formally and politely. It also instructs that the officer states his name, and rank and inquire how he can be of assistance.

“Station officers and station guards must listen attentively to customers' complaints and only ask pertinent questions. Where the customer asks questions of the police, it is important that accurate responses are provided. If the member is unsure of the information, indicate that to the citizen and seek guidance as early as possible,” the document instructs.

It adds that when assurances are given, the officer should ensure that they “follow through within 24 hours” — a practice the force believes aids in confidence building.

The document further outlines that police personnel should: “Respond promptly to the citizens' need by ascertaining the nature of service required and providing it or arranging for it to be provided; never tell customers that no vehicle is available or vehicle is at the garage, instead seek assistance from adjoining stations or via Police Control while reassuring your customer; show appreciation/sensitivity to customers' concern (do not trivialise reports); and document citizens' particulars and reports and issue receipt.

In cases where the reports require the police to visit a location, the policy outlines that the supervisor on duty must be informed and assume responsibility for deploying police resources within a reasonable time.

“Matters emanating from offences against the person (for example threat, assaults, wounding) are considered emergency and must be attended to immediately; matters not considered emergency must be attended to within an hour, failing this a report must be filed by the supervisor on duty at the time as to the factors leading to such failure; the police must ensure that the rights of suspects are not violated when actions are taken against persons who may be the subject of a report to the police; suspects should be allowed to secure (or make arrangements to secure) their property, properly attire themselves, inform family members or neighbours where they will be, before taking them to the station; never turn away a citizen who is inappropriately attired. ALL citizens must be treated with courtesy and respect.”

But despite the detailed guidelines, police personnel sometimes fail to adhere.

In fact this reporter upon entering the Cross Roads Police Station seeking the assistance of an inspector, experienced the boorish behaviour from an officer seated in the reception area.

“Good afternoon, I am here,” were the only words uttered before the statement was rudely interrupted by the officer.

“She nuh deh yah, so you nuh haffi bother come ask,” the officer stated. “Me see di envelope inna your han' an' know a come you come fi ask inspector fi get your picture sign.”

This conduct is not only displayed upon entering stations, however, as one woman in a letter to the editor of this newspaper chronicled her son's unfortunate interaction with an officer when he called the police emergency number.

While at home in the wee hours of the morning, the mother and her 10-year-old son were up studying for the child's test when they heard voices in their yard and the boy saw two men in black caps and asked to call 119.

“I said to him why; what are you going to tell them? He said, 'Mom, remember they stole the tyres off our car already.' I said OK. Then I tried to peek, but was too scared, fearing they might have guns. What got us worried was what we heard one of them say, 'A yah suh di car always park.'

“My son called 119 approximately 12:30 am. A woman answered and he said, 'Goodnight, I am calling,' and interrupted by the operator who I will quote, 'Go to your bed,' and hung up the phone,” she said. I took the phone and called back immediately and the same voice answered. I said, 'I would like to make a report,' again she hung up. Of note, my number is private.”

The woman said the child started to cry when he realised that they would not be receiving help “from the ones who swore to serve and protect”.

Section 3.2 of the policy states that when the public initiates contact through a telephone call for policing services, the officer should answer the phone within four rings. Upon answering, the policeman should identify the station, his rank, name and ask how he may be of assistance.

It added that the policeman should ascertain the nature of the call and the service required, and respond to the policing needs of the callers by “advising them; arranging for the police to visit them; requesting or arranging for them to visit the station; providing the service necessary to address the needs of the caller; enquire if the caller is satisfied and thank the caller for calling.”

When a JCF member initiates contact with citizens, he ought to behave in a professional manner. Section 1.6 of the code states that the JCF “expects the highest standards of ethical and professional behaviour from its members.

“On any given occasion the police will come in contact with citizens from all walks of life. It is the sworn duty of every member of the JCF to treat all persons with proper respect for the rights of all. In that regard considerations should be given to the treatment meted out to offending citizens as no offence was committed against the individual policeman or woman but against the State.”

But one man, who requested anonymity, said that he believes some police personnel show little or no regard for public transportation operators.

“Dem boy up the taxi an' bus man dem when dem ready man,” he said. “An dem ting deh no fair 'cause the man dem sometimes a law-abiding citizen.”

“Some a di times dem will all want tek weh the man dem bus an come roun' to di passenger dem an jus say 'passengers unu come out a di bus'. No little good afternoon, or nothing. Some police need fi do better man, it no right,” he continued.

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