JFJ Press Release: Policing cowboy style – round em up and lock em up, JFJ Press Release

June 17, 2008 – Kingston, Jamaica — Last weekend’s cowboy-style round-up that saw the arbitrary detention of a reported 107 young men must be a timely warning to policy makers who have recently called for legislation that will enlarge police powers and make it legal to detain persons for six weeks without charge. Whilst the details of the event are sketchy, we understand that only one person has been charged in connection with breaching the terms of his bail. All others have been released.
Superintendent Harry Daley’s account in a radio interview is that he was at the dance where the events occurred and there he was confronted by army personnel. He was in uniform and declared his rank and his identity. When he demanded to know who was in charge, an army major drew his 9mm pistol and stuck it in his face with words to the effect that ‘the 9mm’ was ‘in charge’. These events raise serious questions, among them:
1. What intelligence led to the raid that excluded the police commander in charge of the area in which the operation was staged?
2. What operational orders did the army personnel have, that would have emboldened the commanding major to draw his weapon on a uniformed police superintendent who declared that he was the commander in charge of St. Catherine North?
3. Why was the army running an operation that properly ought to have been a police matter?

Outside of the operation’s legitimacy, the ugly and embarrassing fall-out over protocol, power and chain of command between the police and the army begs for public caution.

These questions and many more take on even more serious implications in the context of proposed legislation to legitimize the detention of persons for up to six weeks without charge.

In every instance in the past that Jamaican citizens have been called upon to surrender civil liberties, their lot has worsened not improved. The strategy of asking for citizens to surrender their civil liberties in the interest of fighting crime has been tried ad nauseum since the state of emergency in 1976. It has not resulted in a decrease in violent crime; in fact this tactic has had the opposite effect. Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) acknowledges that crime in Jamaica is an extraordinary challenge but believes that the country’s success in defeating crime is not to be found in extraordinary police powers. It is to be found in extraordinary police men and women providing exemplary leadership and service and acting to uphold the law and the constitution.

We call upon the Prime Minister not to enhance the police powers of detention and the encroachment of individual civil liberties but instead to:
a) Enhance the police capabilities to solve crime;
b) Enhance the Criminal Justice System’s capabilities to rely on scientific evidence and to deal with matters expeditiously and justly;
c) Heighten its social intervention in economically depressed communities;
d) Heighten its school programs that emphasize civic responsibility, family values and respect for authority;
e) Punish corruption and mediocrity. Reward honesty and excellence; and
f) Hold everyone to account.

JFJ urgesthe Prime Minister to view last weekend’s regrettable events as a caution against this latest call for civil liberties to be surrendered, ostensibly to fight crime. We succeed or fail in any struggle by the quality of our decisions not the quality of our conditions.

Author: GLBTQ Jamaica Moderator

Activist and concerned gay man in Jamaica with over 19 years experience in advocacy and HIV/AIDS prevention work, LGBT DJ since 1996.

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