Thu | May 25, 2017

Making the Deane's list

Published:Sunday | August 17, 2014 | 8:00 AM
Daniel Thwaites

Mario Deane was in police custody at the time of his injury, so there can be no question that the police were responsible for his safety. Of course, that's different than saying the police are responsible for his death. But when those charged with his killing all of a sudden turned out to be two madman and a deaf-mute, I had to think to myself, "Wait deh ... . Sumting chikini! Dis nuh right!"

All the same, that's the official story: Is two madman and a deaf-mute kill de yute. Currently, the police have charged the two mentalists, but are still questioning the deaf-mute. I'm imagining what that cruel, uncaring interrogation is like:

Squaddie: "Dummy! Ah you tump de man dung and trow him off de bunk bed!?"

Deaf-mute: "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE."

Squaddie: "Seet deh! Is him dweet!"

There is a thing called the 'laugh test', which is no joking matter. You could also call it the 'straight-face test'. It goes roughly like this: Can you tell your version of events with a straight face? And without an impartial observer bussin' a laugh? I don't know that the official story can pass. It's wrong on so many levels. Why wasn't Deane bailed? Why was he housed with the mentally disturbed? How could he have been beaten for half an hour without intervention?

Don't get me wrong. I'm the biggest supporter of the police, as long as they're behaving correctly. I'm not buying into any attitude that we have nothing to fear but the cops. No way! Just this week it was reported that our fellow citizens are applying for firearms in record numbers. That doesn't surprise me at all. We are fearful of the police, but we are also deathly afraid of each other. If it's not shooting, it's stabbing, and if it's not stabbing, it's something to make you quit jogging in the Queen Hill area of St Andrew.

Still, the police should be the rock of protection, not the rock to buss yuh head. But between the police and the bredda dem in the Queen Hill area of St Andrew, it's like we're between a rock and a very hard place. So wi fraid!

That's why back in March 2013, I had given Commissioner Ellington a 'Please do not kill list'. Remember Ian 'Chen-Singh' Lloyd? His killing was caught on video, but the responsible shooter was still set free. So it became indisputable that the police can kill at will. Hence I asked the commissioner to please accept a list of people I don't want them to bump off. I thought of it as Daniel Schindler's List.

I reckoned it was better to go to the police directly and put my family, friends, associates, church people, entertainers, journalists, Comrades, Labourites, and even my favourite madman on a list for the police to don't bodda kill.

Fact is, nowadays you can't take anything for granted. Look at Kentucky Kid. He had complained to everyone that the police wanted to kill him. If self-advocacy and warning could save you, Kentucky Kid would still be frying chicken. The guy was posting videos on YouTube saying, "The cops are trying to kill me, and here's why ... . Help!" It's only now, years later, that a charge has been laid.

Unfortunately, I didn't know about Mario Deane to beg the commish to put him on my list. So now I'm thinking to make the Deane's list, but not the usual kind that you get on to if you've done well in school. This one is so you can stay alive if you happen to find yourself face to face with the police with a spliff-tail in your jaw corner. Acting Commissioner Hinds: Mi a beg yuh. Please and tanks!

There's this issue that Deane was arrested for a ganja cigarette. Let's get it out of the way. Dennis 'CAPI' Meadows is right that this is not about ganja. Still, it's a shame and disgrace that it has taken this tragedy for more humane and sensible operational orders to be issued about not arresting smokers. All the same, it's better that the opportunity is taken to reverse and extinguish those stupid and counterproductive laws that set up so many young people for disaster.

Let me add that I don't support ganja smoking. And certainly not at this time when I have to work for a living and have children watching every move I make. But should conditions change, particularly if my circumstances deteriorate, I'm not making any promises. So just in case, I would like to be able to bun a spliff without any sort of harassment from the po-po. Not even a summons.

NO BAIL, NO REASON

The question remains why Deane wasn't granted bail though held on a minor charge. One version is that he didn't give an adequate address. Another is that he annoyed an officer by expressing his dislike for police. Hello!? The police have to understand that it's not everyone who's going to love them as much as I do! Consider Gregory Lumsden. Following the audit of the jails demanded by the minister, he was released after two months in lock-up because of a spliff. Think he likes the police and sees them as protectors?

By and by, it cannot have escaped notice that these problems are occurring all over. Last month, New York's Staten Island police killed a man with an illegal chokehold for the grave offence of selling tobacco without a licence. As I write, Ferguson, Missouri, is in flames because the police shot an unarmed teenager.

But seriously, the widespread revulsion at Deane's death from beatings in custody is actually a positive development after a disgusting tragedy. In times gone past, these types of abuse occurred without so much as a whisper. More recently, citizen awareness and activism have been heightened through multiple means, and it's quite clear that the country has turned a corner. People are not prepared to tolerate the abuse. That's a Deane's list we can all make.

Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.