JFJ Press Release: JFJ Dismayed by Recent Spate of Police Killings

JFJ Dismayed by Recent Spate of Police Killings

Tuesday, March 06, 2012, Kingston, Jamaica – Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) is dismayed  by the fact that since March 1, 2012 our police force has killed 21 persons including 10 in a 24 hour period between March 1 and 2.    Among that number is a young teenage girl killed yesterday in Denham Town.   The amount of deaths in that period is, with the exception of the Morant Bay Rebellion and the Tivoli Incursions in 2001 and 2010, the largest loss of life at the hands of the State since the end of slavery.

The police are only justified to use lethal force in the rarest of circumstances which are limited to “using force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty”.  This means that a death at the hands of police should be a rare occurrence.  Unfortunately in Jamaica this has not been the case.  Our police have an abysmal record of killing of civilians – many in circumstances which are disputed or clearly unjustifiable.  In the last four years our police have killed a total of one thousand one hundred and twenty six persons.  A police operation that ends in a death is a failure of policing.

However, the last six days have seen a particularly egregious number of police fatal shootings.  That twenty one (21) persons should have lost their lives is bad enough.  That these deaths have occurred at the hands of those sworn to protect, serve and reassure is appalling and completely unacceptable.  It is untenable in any society that the police force should be resorting to that level of violence in order to control crime.  The determination of the complete circumstances surrounding these killings is yet to be made, but in almost every instance the community and/or eyewitnesses have disputed the police account of the killings and called the deaths unjustifiable.

JFJ recognizes that the police are operating in the context of a high incidence of violent crime, and often have very difficult situations to handle, but we condemn any actions that may occur outside the Rule of Law.  Police operations can and MUST be conducted with adequate preparation to severely reduce any chance of loss of life or injury.  We insist that every operation conducted which results in the loss of life is a failure of policing. That so many of the operations of our police fail to meet this basic standard shows the lack of professionalism of the force and the far way that they must travel to be able to properly police this country.

All studies done, including the recently released report by the UNDP on Human Development and the shift to better citizen security, point out that the heavy fisted approach to policing which sees the abuse or curtailment of rights as the solution to increasing crime has FAILED, not only in Jamaica but across the region.  Our police must not use Jamaica’s history of a high incidence of violent crime as a reason to commit or excuse extra-judicial killings. The society and its leaders must insist that those who act outside the law are held to  account for their actions

Our police must stop insisting on implementing failed rights abusive strategies and instead engage in respectful rights based policing which sees the law abiding members of communities as partners in delivering security rather than the enemy to be eliminated. The Commissioner of Police must immediately remove all the police involved in the recent incidents from front line duty and they must remain off front line duty until the courts have determined that they acted legally.  He must also immediately issue orders to his men reminding them thatthe use of force is a serious responsibility” that in “no case should the use of force, which is disproportionate to the legitimate objective to be achieved, be used or authorized” as stated in the Police Use of Force and Firearm Policy.

The Minister of National Security must make it clear to all levels of the police force that the killing of civilians by police is not an acceptable part of any crime reduction strategy and immediately move to implement the sustained, resourced and focused crime prevention strategies and social interventions coupled with sensible, trustworthy policing and improved administration of justice to which he recently committed.   We ask that the Minister support INDECOM’s efforts to conduct thorough investigations and determine “whether these incidents are justified or not” and to ensure that “Individual officers are accountable and responsible for whatever force they use and must be in a position to justify their actions in the light of their legal responsibilities and powers”  We urge all those with pertinent information on these incidents (both civilian and police) to provide INDECOM with that information as soon as possible.

This orgy of bloodletting by the police must end now.  As Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently put it fifty years ago we “cannot murder murder”.