Police Sworn to Uphold the Law in Stop and Search, Not Interpret It
Thursday, July 4, 2013, Kingston, Jamaica – There have been recent reports that the Chairman of the Police Federation, Sergeant Raymond Wilson, has said that the police are being asked to be irresponsible and stop the practice of stop and search. This is in response to the recent ruling by Mr. Justice David Batts, Q.C., Supreme Court Judge in the case of Gary Hemans v the Attorney General of Jamaica.
Mr. Wilson is under a misconception. The police are actually being asked to be responsible and carry out their duties within the confines of the law. The police will always have the power to stop persons and execute searches providing these stops and searches can be “legally justified” and are executed based on “reasonable cause”. Random stops and searches without reasonable cause have always been illegal.
Mr. Wilson’s remarks are only one of the critical comments from various branches of the Police, including the Police High Command, about the ruling of Mr. Justice Batts QC and their intention to ignore it. These comments are unseemly and inappropriate and send the wrong signals about respect for law and order and the rule of law. The fact that these remarks are coming from the police makes them even more distasteful. Lest the police forget, they are not a law unto themselves. They operate within a system of checks and balances and the judiciary has been, and remains, the arm of government that interprets the law.
If the police do not agree with the ruling they are at liberty to appeal it to the Court of Appeal. However, until such time as they do, they are sworn to uphold the law, not to interpret it.
Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ) calls on the Attorney General to issue a directive to the members of the police force reminding them of their duty to uphold the law and that it is not appropriate for them to disrespect verbally or by their actions, the rulings of the courts of the land. Continued intransigence of the police on this issue will expose the Government of Jamaica to lawsuits that this country can ill afford.
JFJ also asks the Minister of National Security, the Hon. Peter Bunting, to inform the Commissioner of Police and the officers under his charge, that it cannot be policy for the police to continue random stops and searches in light of the recent ruling of the courts. He must insist that all such activities cease immediately. The Minister must also remind them that policing must be evidence based and should never do anything to breach the constitutional rights of the citizenry.
Policing is most effective when it is intelligence and information driven, as was demonstrated by the recent seizure of guns from a bus in Portland following a two day operation based on intelligence. That stop and search and seizure was not random.