Right Steps & Poui Trees


8 Comments

Increased Police Killings, Privacy & Other Concerns: INDECOM’S 1st Quarterly Report 2017

Jamaica’s Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) is a Commission of Parliament mandated “to undertake investigations concerning actions by members of the Security Forces and other agents of the State that result in death or injury to persons or the abuse of the rights of persons”. (INDECOM Act) The Commission began work in late 2010 and submits annual and quarterly reports to Parliament; these reports are available to the public and many are posted on INDECOM’s website. The reports give both data and analysis regarding the complaints and incidents investigated; they also include reviews of issues of concern to the Commission. In the past, these issues have included

  • deaths in custody
  • deaths of the mentally ill in confrontation with the police
  • command responsibility for the use of force
  • the School Resource Officers Programme
  • firing at vehicles.

1st Quarterly Report 2017

INDECOM 1st Quarterly Report 2017

The 1st Quarterly Report – 2017 was tabled in Parliament earlier this month and INDECOM held a press conference last Friday (May 26, 2017) to discuss the contents of the report.

Part One of the report gives information about new complaints received by INDECOM during the first three months of 2017 and lists the names of the security force-related fatalities, giving the location of each incident and which state agency was involved in the fatality.

Other information, such as Fatal Shootings by Parish, is given.

INDECOM 1st Q report 2017 p 11 chart

Part Two  of the report deals with the work of the Legal Department. It gives information on the Commission’s completed reports for the period and gives details of the recommendations of the Legal Department in 51 fatal shooting incidents. Most of these incidents took place between 2011 – 2015, but there is one case from 2008 and another from 2010. In the majority of these cases, there was the recommendation that no criminal charge be laid or disciplinary action be taken, and that the file be forwarded to the Special Coroner. In one case there was the recommendation that a policeman be charged with murder and in another case there was a confirmation of the DPP’s decision to charge a policeman with murder. INDECOM 1st Q 2017 - cases 1-2INDECOM 1st Q 2017 - case 15INDECOM 1st Q 2017 - case 22INDECOM 1st Q 2017 - case 33

The report also indicates the arrests and charges during the first quarter:INDECOM 1st Q 2017 - arrests and chanrges

Part Three of the report is on Lessons Learnt. It contains alarming data about the sharp increase in the number of people killed by the security forces in the first three months of 2017, when compared to the same period last year – a 75% increase.  This sets out in report form information that INDECOM has already communicated during the year.

The decline in security force fatalities, from above 200 killed per annum, for many years, fell to 115 in 2014. This was a 55% reduction. Fatalities dropped to 101 in 2015 and 111 in 2016.

However, the first quarter of 2017 (Jan – March) has seen a 75% increase in fatal shootings over the same period of 2016; 42 fatalities as against 24 in 2016. NB. 42 fatalities was not reached until mid-May, in 2016.

Fatal shootings in January, 2017, amounted to 19, a figure last observed in January 2014. Explanations provided by the JCF for this increase and subsequent months was reported as a rise in police confrontations with criminal gangs. (p. 31)

INDECOM press conference 26-5-17

Left to right: Denyelle Anderson (Public Relations Officer), Terrence Williams (Commissioner) , Hamish Campbell (Assistant Commissioner)

At the press conference, INDECOM Assistant Commissioner Hamish Campbell gave an update in the number of fatalities, stating that as of May 25, 2017, 64 people had been killed, compared to 44 by the same date in 2016. This is a 45% increase, which is still an alarming figure. He also reported that as of that date, the combined number of people shot and killed or shot and injured by the security forces was 87.

Mr Campbell also spoke about the fact that  46% of the people shot and killed or injured by the security forces in the first quarter of 2017 were not in possession of a firearm and 32% of them were completely unarmed.

INDECOM pictograph p. 31

Pictograph 1: Persons killed or injured without a firearm or in possession of non-firearm weapon (p. 31)

 

The section contains further information about these incidents and concludes as follows:

INDECOM 1st Q report 2017 p 33

Part Four of the report gives information about INDECOM’s meetings with the JCF, its outreach activities and press releases issued.

Additionally, the First Quarterly Report has an article on the issue of privacy and policing, dealing with surveillance, CCTV cameras and the need for regulations in Jamaica governing their use. There is also a review of the Major Organised Crime & Anti-Corruption (MOCA) Bill before Parliament and the concerns INDECOM has about aspects of the Bill. INDECOM Commissioner Terrence Williams spoke about these two issues at the press conference and I will comment on them in a separate blog post.

INDECOM’s Reports are a useful mechanism for the public to track the work of the Commission and some issues of great importance to the society. It is a shame that they are not the subject of more discussion and debate in the Parliament itself.

 


2 Comments

350 Words or Less: Police Using Body Cameras, But What Protocol Is Regulating Their Use?

This morning I saw a Gleaner report that the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is now actually using body cameras in some divisions.

This seems to follow on from the launch of a pilot project last summer and I wondered if the promised protocol to regulate their use had been completed.sg-tweet-re-jcf-body-cameras-21-2-17

I am very disturbed to now see a press release this afternoon from the Independent Commission of Investigation (INDECOM) saying that the JCF has not yet shared with it – the independent oversight body – “the proposed procedures and protocols that will govern the use of the equipment, collection and storage of data, and subsequent viewing of the footage.”indecom-press-release-jcf-body-cameras-21-2-17

The protocol regulating the police use of body cameras will to a great extent determine their usefulness as a tool to support both accountability and crime fighting. This has been clearly seen in other jurisdictions, probably best known in cases in the USA. Regulations regarding when cameras are turned on and off, how data is stored and protected, who has access to the footage and sanctions for failure to comply with the regulations are all extremely important. Also, a particular issue which has arisen in many instances in the USA is that of release of footage to the public. It is not tenable that body cameras are in use, but regulations have not yet been finalised and made public.

The importance of such a protocol has long been acknowledged. In January 2014, then Minister of National Security Peter Bunting  “noted that a protocol will be established, making it mandatory for the officers to engage the cameras once they are going on an operation.” (JIS report, January 24, 2014) Similar assurances were given last year when the body camera launch took place. Perhaps Minister Montague or Acting Commissioner Grant could give a public update regarding the current status of this essential protocol.

Some Related Links

Jamaica Observer: Police finally wearing body cameras-February 21, 2017

JCF: Police Issued with Body Worn Cameras – August 27, 2016

Jamaicans for Justice: JFJ Welcomes Police Body Cameras, Calls for Strong Protocols – August 25, 2016

Jamaica Information Service: Body Cameras for Policemen – January 24, 2014

 


1 Comment

INDECOM Arrests 5 Police Officers in Relation to Alpha Student Shooting Incident

Tonight the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) issued an update in the case of the Alpha schoolgirl who was shot in a taxi  in downtown Kingston last week Thursday, indicating that 5 police officers attached to Mobile Reserve have been arrested in relation to the incident. The press release is set out below. I wait to see what further news there is regarding this case.

INDECOM press release 4-7-16

UPDATE: INDECOM ARRESTS 5 JCF MEMBERS IN RELATION TO ALPHA STUDENT SHOOTING INCIDENT

July 4, 2016 – The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) wishes to advise the public that as at 7:35 p.m. this evening, five (5) members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) attached to the Mobile Reserve Division have been arrested in relation to the shooting injury of a Convent of Mercy Academy (Alpha) student on Thursday, June 30, 2016.

The police officers will be placed before the Parish Court as soon as an Identification Parade and interviews are conducted.

The Commission thanks the High Command of the JCF for their cooperation in this investigation.

Background

The Commission launched an investigation into the shooting injury of the female student following the incident on Thursday, June 30, 2016. The incident occurred at the intersection of North Street and Mark Lane at approximately 7:15 a.m.

The student underwent emergency surgery at the Kingston Public Hospital and is still recovering in the Intensive Care Unit.

The report received by INDECOM was that a man who was operating a “robot” taxi transporting and students of Convent of Mercy Academy (Alpha) and St. Georges College, was allegedly stopped by the police. It was also alleged that after this taxi stopped, the police opened fire at the vehicle. One of the bullets hit one of the students in the head.

A team of INDECOM investigators and forensic examiners responded to the incident following the report. The incident scene and motor care were processed; and statements collected from eyewitnesses to the incident.

The Commission wishes to reiterate its appeal to anyone who may have witnessed or can provide any information about the incident to call 1.876.968.1932, or call our mobile number at 1.876.878.0167, or visit its office in Kingston. Persons are also encouraged to call our new Toll Free Lines: 1.888.991.5555 or 1.888.935.5550.


1 Comment

A Schoolgirl Gets Shot In a Taxi…By the Police…?

It has been another violence-filled week in Jamaica. And included in the violence was the shooting up of an illegal taxi by the police, according to witnesses including the driver, which resulted in a schoolgirl who was a passenger being shot and injured. This happened on Thursday morning, when the taxi was transporting a number of students on their way to school.

That afternoon, a young man selling at a traffic light approached my car and, making a gesture of winding down the window, signaled that he wanted to talk to me. I put the window down and he asked if I was the lady he sometimes saw on TV talking about INDECOM (the Independent Commission of Investigation). When I replied yes, he began what I can only call a pouring out of his heart.

It was about the shooting of the Alpha schoolgirl. He was angry and in pain. He asked if people pickni can be shot just so and nothing come of it. He said that police can’t just shoot up a taxi because they have something with the driver, and they don’t even know who is in the taxi. It cudda him madda eena di taxi an im neva know. How im would ah feel den? Eeeh? Dem nuh care.

He went on to talk about the police harassing the taxi drivers, who he said were not stealing. They were trying to make a living, to send their children to school. Like him, he said. Mi out yah ah sell fi support my family. Ah di same ting dem ah do.

He asked if I had heard what was happening downtown, and spoke about the protests, with road blocks and fires being set in some places. I said I had heard about it before I left home. He said people were doing it because they heard that the schoolgirl had died. I said that I had heard that was what had sparked the protests but on the radio they had reported that she was still alive. No, he said, from two o’clock wi hear seh she dead. (She is actually still battling for life in hospital.)

INDECOM tweets 30-6-16 aI told him that INDECOM said they were already investigating the case and that they would be giving an update as soon as they got more information.

The light changed & the line of traffic moved forward, and the young man walked beside the car and continued to talk when I stopped again. He told me that he had recently been backed up by a policeman, right out here, he said. Him seh him goin shoot mi. Mi ask him if him tink him cyan shoot mi an nuttn  goin’ happen. Dem tink is di whole ah Jamaica nuh know nuttn.

As the traffic light changed again, he said he heard the policeman had been taken in. Dem mus charge him, he said. And the last words I heard as I drove away were – But dem shuddn even try him. Dem should jus do him what him do di likkle girl.

Layers upon layers of violence. Which is why the investigations and the formal justice and accountability systems must work and must be seen to be working.

Responses to the Shooting

INDECOM issued this press release yesterday:

INDECOM Release 30-6-16INDECOM PROBING SHOOTING INJURY OF 15-Y-O ALPHA STUDENT

June 30, 2016 – The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) has launched an investigation into the shooting injury of a 15 year old female student of the Convent of Mercy Academy (Alpha). The incident occurred at the intersection of North Street and Mark Lane at approximately 7:15 a.m.

The student underwent emergency surgery at the Kingston Public Hospital and is now recovering in the Intensive Care Unit.

The report received by INDECOM is that a man operating a “robot” taxi transporting students of Convent of Mercy Academy (Alpha) was allegedly stopped by police. It is also being alleged that after the taxi had stopped, the police opened fire at the vehicle hitting the student.

A team of investigators and forensic examiners responded to the incident following the report. The incident scene was processed; the motor car in question was also processed; investigators collected statements from witnesses to the incident.

The Commission is asking anyone who may have witnessed or can provide any information about the incident to call or visit its office in Kingston at 1.876.968.1932, or call our mobile number at 1.876.878.0167. Persons are also encouraged to call our new Toll Free Lines: 1.888.991.5555 or 1.888.935.5550.

NB: In the Commission’s 4th Quarterly Report for 2015, the issue of shooting at vehicles was discussed extensively. We invite members of the media and the public to peruse the document with a view to understanding the policies and legal issues related to incidents of this nature. Visit our website: http://www.indecom.gov.jm (Click on Reports then “The 4th INDECOM Quarterly Report”)

 

COP Carl WilliamsDuring a discussion on Nationwide News Network yesterday, Commissioner of Police Carl Williams made the following comments while responding to several questions from hosts Cliff Hughes and Dennis Brooks:

No police officer came forward to report that incident, and so we are going based on the allegations that have been made. We have started investigations already, to identify the…if police officers were involved and, if police officers were actually involved, we will identify them, not some time from now but very soon. And they will be subject to the fullest consequences.

We still have ballistic evidence that we can pursue and so we also can narrow down to police officers who were supposed to have been in the area at the time.

 

We heard that it was an unmarked police vehicle…an unmarked vehicle…

…if it were a police vehicle, no shots should have been fired. Unless a police officer is, unless his life is threatened or unless the life of someone from the community, a citizen, is threatened, the police are not authorized to fire their weapons. We have gotten to the point where it is not even okay for the police to fire their weapon when justified; it is okay to fire when justified and when it is necessary for the police to fire. Because there are instances in which there might be justification but it might not be necessary. And so it must be necessary and it must be justified before the police can fire their weapons. That is how we have been able to manage in the last two or so years. And that is how we have been able to reduce the number of fatal contacts between the police and citizens. And so if it were a police officer’s …if it were police officers in this situation, then certainly that would have been inconsistent with the policy and the direction that the JCF is taking at this time.

(Transcribed from recording of Nationwide News Network interview with COP Carl Williams by Cliff Hughes & Dennis Brooks, 30-6-16)

 

The 2015 4th Quarterly Report mentioned in INDECOM’s press release is worth looking at both for its information about the issue of firing on vehicles and for the picture it gives of the reporting INDECOM does about its cases, investigations and work.

INDECOM 4th Quarterly report 2015 full

I hope that the child who was injured recovers fully. I hope that those who shot her are found. There is much urgent work that needs to be done, as we keep finding ourselves at the point of having to express similar hopes over and over again.

 


4 Comments

Him Done Dead Already: Police Handling of Bodies After Fatal Shootings

It is clear from the video that the police think the man they are throwing into the back of their pickup is already dead. Their disregard is graphically captured, as are the distressed wails and shouts from some of the people witnessing what is happening. The police drive off quickly, once the back of the pickup is secured.

The Independent Commission of Investigation (INDECOM) released the following statement by its Commissioner Terrence Williams on May 27, regarding recent incidents in which the police have shown a lack of respect in their treatment of bodies of people allegedly killed by the police:
INDECOM Press Release 29-5-16 pg1

State Agents’ failure to respect the dead

The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) notes the recent circulation of a video within public media fora, which records members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) handling the apparent lifeless body of Mr. John Hibbert on May 17, 2016 following his alleged fatal shooting by JCF officers. The video shows police officers throwing Mr. Hibbert into the back of a JCF service vehicle.

What is both disturbing and unacceptable is the manner in which the body of Mr. Hibbert is ‘flung’ into the back of the vehicle with absolutely no regard or sense of ‘humanity’ for him. All citizens, irrespective of what they have allegedly done, or who they may be, are entitled to be treated with a measure of respect.

The removal of the deceased from any crime scene, whether by police officers, ambulance service or mortuary officials is deserving of a level of professionalism, dignity and respect, both for the dead and for those family members and friends who are often present.

State Agents are not qualified medical personnel and they cannot formally pronounce persons as dead. They are required to always treat a victim as injured until pronounced dead by a qualified person. Hence, in all cases, a measure of urgency is to be employed when treating with injured persons. The JCF has very clear guidelines within their own ‘Human Rights and Use of Force Policy’ which directs, ‘… that assistance and medical aid are rendered to any injured or affected persons at the earliest possible moment’. [Section 57(3)]. This video provides no evidence of this prescribed approach.

The Commission has observed a recent trend in which photographs and videos are circulated on social media platforms following security force-related fatal shootings. Photographs recently posted on the internet concerned two fatal shootings on the 12th and 13th of April 2016.

The photographs show the clearest evidence of a dead person, taken in circumstances in which it is more than reasonable to assume were recorded by State Agents or permitted by them, but in which it was reported that the injured persons were “rushed to hospital.” Such photographic evidence provides a contradictory account to there being any ‘injured’ person or any urgency in being ‘rushed to hospital’. Such photography eliminates the credibility of such statements.

The current video and recent uploading of pictures of people killed by the security forces is observed both nationally and internationally across the World Wide Web, and does little to enhance the reputation of the Jamaican police service. The Commission has received comments and complaints and we urge State Agents to ensure they act, at all times, with the utmost professionalism and demonstrate the due respect for citizens and the families of these dead or injured men.

As the Indian Union Home Minister Rajneth Singh recently commented, following a death in which paramilitary forces were involved, “…as a civilized society it is a common gesture that the dead body of a person be treated with utmost respect and dignity…”

Commissioner of INDECOM, Terrence Williams

The INDECOM Commissioner raises concerns about

  • the way in which the body was thrown into the back of the police vehicle
  • the taking and posting online of photos of people killed by the police & the suggested involvement or complicity of police in the taking of such photos
  • a lack of urgency in taking people shot by police for medical treatment or to be pronounced dead by medical personnel.

Some of these are concerns that have been expressed over many years.

Williams points out that the police, not being medical personnel, are not able formally to pronounce someone dead. This is the reason the police routinely give for not leaving bodies in place at scenes of police killings to enable police photographers or forensic teams to examine bodies where they fell. They say they must take the person to a hospital, as they can’t presume that the person is dead.

In principle, this is a valid reason. Yet often the way the person is handled (as in the video referred to by INDECOM) or the lack of urgency in taking the person to the medical facility shows clearly that the police have already pronounced that him done dead already. If not, they would be handling an injured person in a way which would be a gross dereliction of their duty, according to their own “Human Rights and Use of Force Policy”.

There have been many accounts over decades of police throwing people – dead or still alive – into trunks of police cars or the back of other vehicles, for the journey to the hospital. And many accounts of delays in taking them to hospital.

Basil Brown – Killed February 17, 2003

map showing Kingsway Hope Rd corner

One such instance comes to mind, that of Basil Brown, shot by a policeman on February 17, 2003, across the road from Andrews Memorial Hospital, at the corner of Kingsway Avenue and Hope Road. Witnesses at the scene said that Mr Brown was alive when he was lifted into a van and that nurses who had observed the incident were calling for him to be brought into the hospital. That request was ignored and he was taken instead to the University Hospital some distance away. However, instead of taking the most direct route – straight up Hope Road towards Papine, they set off along Kingsway Avenue, and by the time they arrived at University Hospital, Mr Brown was dead.

Braeton Seven – Killed March 14, 2001

In March 2003, Amnesty International published a report titled “Jamaica: The killing of the Braeton Seven – A justice system on trial”. This was after the conclusion of the Coroner’s Inquest into the deaths of the seven youths killed by police in a house in Braeton, St Catherine, on March 14, 2001.

AI photo from 3-2003 Braeton report

(Photo credit: Amnesty International)

A section in the report deals with the delay in removal of the bodies:

Removal of the bodies

The positioning of dead bodies, blood trails and other evidence can give vital information as to how an individual was killed. Yet the police moved the bodies of the seven before any officer independent of the killings had an opportunity to examine or record their positions. The police later justified their action on the grounds that they had taken the youths to receive medical attention. However, police evidence to the Coroner’s Court suggested that the bodies were left for some time before being taken to hospital. In his original statement to investigators, Senior Superintendent of Police Adams said that the “injured persons” were removed between 4.45 and 5.15am. All the statements made by police officers suggest that the incident was over by around 5am, with references to the “injured” men being “rushed” or “immediately taken” to hospital. One police driver said in his statement that he was instructed to take the men to hospital at approximately 5.30am.AI 2003 Braeton report quote

However, there is clearly a discrepancy of around 40 minutes or longer in the time of departure from Braeton and arrival at the hospital. The men were not documented as arriving at the hospital until approximately 6.20am. A statement by another police driver clearly suggested a delay before they were taken to hospital: “I heard loud explosions that sounded like gunshot, this lasted for some time. About an hour later I was instructed by SSP [Senior Superintendent of Police] Adams…to take them [three of the seven] to hospital.” Another police driver testified before the Coroner’s Court that a journey from Braeton to Spanish Town Public Hospital, in a police car with the sirens on, took 10 minutes at that time of day. Television journalist Michael Pryce told the Court that the police took some time to remove the bodies and that they were loaded into police jeeps “between 6.10 and 6.25/6.30am”.

It is clear from the statements given by various sources, including numerous police officers, that the dead men were not taken to hospital immediately following the incident. In the unlikely event that the men were not dead, the police would have been derelict in their duty for allowing them to die without prompt medical treatment. However, the more likely scenario is that the seven were obviously dead, given the severity of their wounds, and that the police therefore knew medical treatment was not required. In such an event, the appropriate action for the police would have been to leave the bodies wherever they fell, for the investigators to photograph and collect forensic information. (pp 11-12)

Amnesty International – March 2003 Report – Jamaica -The Killing of the Braeton 7

(Six policemen were later charged with murder in the Braeton Seven case, but were acquitted at trial in February 2005.)

In the INDECOM release, Commissioner Williams speaks about an erosion in credibility of police accounts of rushing injured people to hospital. He speaks about damage to the reputation of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) locally and internationally. He speaks about the need for the police to act with professionalism and respect. He is correct.

Will Police Commissioner Carl Williams have anything to say on this matter?

 

 

 

 

 

 


Did he really have to die? – Questions when the police kill people living with mental illness

Only a madman would grab a gun from a policeman’s lap as he slept in a car outside a police station.

Odane Bennett – Killed April 20, 2016

The death of 23-year-old Odane Bennett on April 20, 2016 has again raised questions for the society about police responses to people living with mental illness, which has been a long-standing issue in Jamaica, as in many other countries around the world. It is not an issue, though, that has really received the attention and action that it deserves.

The press release sent out by the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) gives an outline of the fatal shooting, which they are now investigating.

 

INDECOM probing fatal shooting at the Olympic Gardens Police Station

April 20, 2016 – The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) has launched an investigation into the fatal shooting of a civilian in the vicinity of the Olympic Gardens Police Station at approximately 6 a.m. on April 20, 2016.

indecom release 21-4-16 borderThe deceased man has been identified as 23 year old Odane Bennett of Hill Avenue, Kingston 11. Initial information received by investigators confirmed that Bennett was of unsound mind and had been treated at the University Hospital and the Kingston Public Hospital for mental health problems in the past.

Police Report
The report received by INDECOM from the police is that a police officer was in a service vehicle parked outside the police station when a man (Bennett) allegedly relieved him of an M16 rifle and ran into a public passenger vehicle. It was reported that after he boarded the vehicle he was confronted by the same police officer and was shot and injured. He was later taken to the Kingston Public Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

A team from INDECOM attended and processed the incident scene and the body of the deceased. Civilian and security force witnesses were interviewed. The concerned officers were served with Notices to furnish INDECOM with an account of the incident. The firearm of the concerned officer was taken out of circulation and packaged and will be transported to the Government Forensic Laboratory.

Seeking Public Cooperation
The Commission is asking anyone who may have witnessed or can provide any information about the incident to call its Kingston officer at 1.876.968.1932, or call our mobile number at 1.876.878.0167. Persons are also encouraged to call our new Toll Free Lines: 1.888.991.5555 1.888.991.5555 FREE or 1.888.935.5550 1.888.935.5550 FREE.

-33-

Contact:
Kahmile Reid
Snr. Public Relations Officer
INDECOM
Email: kahmile.reid@indecom.gov.jm

CVM TV report

A report by Joel Crosskill on CVM TV News had interviews with a policeman and with members of the community, with differing accounts. The video is available at the following link:  CVM TV News report

 

ASP Johnson said ” From what I was told, I do not know, the man had the firearm and pointed it and prepared to use it. I do not know what else could have been done…I got to understand that he was mentally challenged, and so because of this, he may not have been in full control of his actions. Nevertheless, the police had to act because it could have been a worse situation than we have. We could have had that man firing off the gun. Several persons who were traversing at the time on the road and were in the bus going about their business could have been in serious danger.”

A woman at the scene gave a different account, saying that the passengers had already come out of the bus, and were telling the police that the man was of unsound mind and saying to give him a chance.

Do we discount the comments of another woman interviewed at the scene, or do we take her words as a genuine, rational and valid call for a different approach?

“If I was the person that in that vehicle and ‘im tek that gun off mi and ‘im go into a van wid it, an I see dat the gun is on the ground, what I would do, the first thing,  if I have a gun in my hand to kill him, I would stick him up with that gun, yes, and tell him not to touch that gun. And I would tek him out of that vehicle and I would handcuff him and I would tek him to Bellevue den and seh check out if something wrong with this young man. And if nothing dont wrong wid him,  what I  would do then is lock him up for the act. But I wuddn just give him eleven shot on di ground.”

INDECOM’s investigation is in progress and we wait to hear the outcome.

***********************************************************************

Only a madman would try to cross a police barricade at night during a curfew, and tell the police and soldiers that he was going to get ganja, when they asked where he thought he was going.

Michael Gayle – Beaten August 21, 1999; Died August 23,1999

There have been many other instances where people living with mental illness have been killed by the police. A number of them have been monitored by human rights group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) over the years. The first case of death at the hands of the security forces that was brought to JFJ was that of Michael Gayle, a 26-year-old man with a mental illness. On the night of August 21, 1999, while there was a curfew in Olympic Gardens where he lived, he attempted to cross a barricade at which police and soldiers were posted. When they told him he couldn’t pass, he told them he was going to get some ganja. The police and soldiers ended up beating, kicking and gun-butting this unarmed man so brutally, that his stomach ruptured. Eventually, at the behest of his mother, Jennie Cameron, he was taken to the Kingston Public Hospital, where his condition was misdiagnosed and he was sent home with instructions to take pain killers and to return days later for  an appointment at the psychiatric clinic. He died there, while waiting to be seen.

For more details, read this account by JFJ in 2005 at the time of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ findings and recommendations regarding Michael Gayle’s death: Seeking an End to The Abuse.

IACHR Gayle 2 IACHR Report on Michael Gayle case

 

***********************************************************************

Only a madman would throw a stone, shatter a police car windscreen and keep walking towards the car.

Glenford Williams – Killed January 9, 2001

Another case that was monitored by JFJ was that of Glenford Williams, who was killed in January 2001; a coroner’s inquest was held in May 2002. I actually attended that inquest in May Pen on behalf of JFJ, which published the following in its Justice Writes column in the Gleaner, on May 22, 2002.

Justice Writes: Stones vs an M16

The main facts concerning this incident were not in dispute at the coroner’s inquest. Twenty-six-year-old Glenford Williams was killed by Sergeant Payne on January 9, 2001 in the Sandy Bay area of Clarendon.

On that day, Williams was on the main roadside near his home throwing stones at passing cars. Williams suffered from a mental illness, his mother and sister told the court, and had been receiving treatment at Bellvue Hospital for approximately seven years. Sometimes he became violent, and on occasions the family went to the May Pen police for help in dealing with him.

Gleaner Justice Writes M16 with borderPolice Action

Sgt Payne and constables Blackwood and Clair, responding to a radio transmission and report from another policeman, drove to the area in search of the man reported to be throwing stones. Both Blackwood and Clair testified that when Payne stopped the police jeep in an open lot at the top of a lane leading off the main road Williams ran towards the vehicle and threw at least two stones, one of which hit and shattered the front windscreen. Williams continued to advance towards the police as they alighted from the car, throwing more stones at them. It was reported that Sgt Payne fired one warning shot from his M16 rifle and then, when Williams was still 20-22 feet away, fired again, hitting him in the chest; the bullet ruptured his heart.

Coroner’s Questions

On Monday, 13th May, 2002, the Coroner’s Inquest took place in May Pen. In his summing up and instructions to the jury before they retired, Coroner Mr H. Wells raised a number of issues and questions for the jury to consider in arriving at a decision as to whether someone should be held criminally responsible for the death of Glenford Williams.

Was Sgt Payne, given all the circumstances, justified in shooting Williams, or was his action reckless or grossly negligent? Did Payne act reasonably given the distance, the level of threat and the extremity of force of the response? Williams, armed only with stones, was 20-22 feet away and none of the stones thrown had caused any injuries; Payne was not trapped within the vehicle, facing an advancing assailant.Was Payne’s response of shooting him in the chest with an M16 rifle justified? What other action might reasonably have been taken by the officer? Given his level of experience and rank in the Police Force, was he capable of shooting the victim in some other part of his body so as to disable him? Was this the best the policeman could have done to protect himself, his colleagues and the public from any harm that might have been caused by a stone? If the jury believed that Payne was in imminent danger and feared for his life and the life of his colleagues, then his actions could be found reasonable. If not, the question of whether his action was reckless and grossly negligent must be considered.

Perverse Verdict

After hearing all the evidence, and the coroner’s summation, the jury retired for approximately twenty minutes and returned with a verdict that no one was to be held criminally responsible for the death of Glenford Williams. The Coroner, having thanked the jury for performing their duty, then remarked that he did not agree with their verdict, and considered it to be a ‘perverse’ verdict.

The outcome of this inquest poses a number of questions the Jamaican society needs to consider.

  1. Did the circumstances require shots to be fired at all?
  2. How should an obviously and known mentally ill citizen be handled by officers of the Jamaica Constabulary Force?
  3. How much training in this area do members of the police force receive?
  4. What non-lethal equipment do the police have access to for use in such situations?
  5. What is our response as a society to the culture existing in sections of our Police Force, political directorate, and wider society that views the lethal use of force as a legitimate first rather than [last] resort?
  6. When there are no sanctions, what prevents such an incident from happening again?

Maybe the question that needs to be asked most of all is, “Who was at the end of the barrel?” It shouldn’t matter, but too often it does. Who is going to care about one less “mad man” on the street in Sandy Bay? We can just turn a blind eye and forget about the whole thing, no matter how ‘perverse’. Or we can stand up, and speak out and work for change.”

Unfortunately some of these questions remain as relevant today, as they were in 2002.

***********************************************************************

Is it only a madman who would ask “Did he really have to die? Couldn’t they have responded in some other way?” in each of these, and many other instances, where the police kill people living with mental illness?