Police need to Protect Complainants
Monday, June 4, 2012, Kingston, Jamaica – On May 29, 2012, by way of a Constabulary Communications Network (CCN) Release, the public learned of the arrest of a policeman and members of his family on suspicion of murder and conspiracy to commit murder in relation to the discovery of a headless corpse two weeks ago. The release goes on to commend the detectives who investigated this case for their speedy work. The death of a complainant against a policeman, allegedly at the hands of the same policeman, is a horrific event. Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ) has no specific details on this case but, if the allegations turn out to be true, would also commend the police for the swift work and speedy arrest.
Unfortunately, police threats and harassment of those who have cases against them or make complaints about the behaviour of members of the force are not isolated incidents. In our files we have numerous allegations of threat, harassment, attempted bribery and even violence by police against members of the public who have lodged complaints against them.
As far back as the Michael Gayle case, families have claimed that police and soldiers have threatened them or attempted to intimidate them when they seek justice for their relatives. The appeal to the Privy Council by Ms. Millicent Forbes in the Janice Allen case turned on reports of a pattern of threat, intimidation and attempted bribery by members of the police force as they attempted to get Ms. Millie to ‘drop the case’.
Following the death of young Amanie Wedderburn, a policeman was charged with manslaughter by the Coroner’s Jury. Unfortunately, the case in the Circuit Court died when a witness fled the island and others were allegedly threatened not to take part in the proceedings.
Angela Fennel-Reid faced threats, intimidation and physical attacks during and even after her case against a policeman. Last year, in the Andre Thomas case in which police were charged with murder, some witnesses reported (to the office of the DPP) that they were being threatened or intimidated into changing their testimony on the stand.
Robert Hill, (aka Kentucky Kid) made public the threats against him by members of the police force that reportedly followed his making a complaint against the police. He subsequently died at the hands of the police.
The cases listed are only some of the allegations of threats and intimidation by police against complainants. So while we welcome the swift action by the police in this case in St. Ann, certainly a low point for the JCF, we urge that they must become much more proactive in the protection of ALL witnesses who make serious allegations against members of the Force. Only strong action to protect witnesses and investigate allegations against their members (before harm comes to complainants) will have any hope of beginning to rebuild trust between citizens and police.