Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Editorial | The police and operational protocols

Published:Thursday | December 8, 2016 | 12:00 AM

What in the context of Jamaica's serious crime problem, some might consider two relatively minor incidents, highlight the management weaknesses in the constabulary, which, in turn, erodes the public support they need to be effective at their jobs, including beating back the very crime problem of which we complain.

One of these incidents, for which the head of the Area Three Police, Assistant Commissioner, Donovan Graham, has apologised to the Moxam family of Old Harbour, St Catherine, has to do with how, or the time it takes, for the police to determine jurisdiction in cases that straddle operational borders.

It happens that on Sunday the Moxams reported to their local police that their son, Camaley, 16, was missing. Later that day his body was discovered in an area between the vicinity of, or on the border that separates the parishes of St Catherine and Clarendon. Young Camaley had apparently fallen from a cliff. The initial assumption is that his death was an accident.

The problem, however, is the length of time it took the police to process the scene: more than eight hours. Police came and went, and seemingly dithered. The Moxams felt that their son was being robbed of dignity and their grief trampled upon.

The long delay was that the police could not decide which of them, St Catherine, which falls within Area Five, or Clarendon which is within Mr Graham's Area Three, had jurisdiction over the body. They had to find global positioning system (GPS), which is in short supply in the police force, to decide on whose side of the border the body was found and who, therefore, should investigate.

It was eventually determined it was Clarendon's, and by extension, Area Three's case.

"The time that elapsed was very unfortunate, and I wish to say to the family that we are very sorry for the distress and the anguish it may have caused them," said Mr Graham.

Perhaps the more egregious of the cases is the one involving the 14-year-old girl who was abducted and raped in Portmore last week and one of the suspects escaped his handcuffs and fled from the steps of the Waterford Police Station while being taken into custody. That is bad enough, for which seemingly errant officers should be held accountable.

 

PSYCHOLOGICAL IMPACT

 

But worse is the fact that that child, the rape victim, who apparently guided the police to the scene of her trauma, was by uncontested accounts transported back to the police station in the same vehicle with the apprehended suspect. We can imagine the psychological impact of that journey as this child relived her misery, which is likely to have worsened when she witnessed the escape of the accused young man.

This raises question about protocols of the treatment by the police of rape victims as well as for the transportation of victims of any crime and the alleged perpetrators. It, on the face of it, seems to us wrong, that they are made to travel in the same vehicle.

We would expect that the police would have established protocol of the handling of circumstances such as obtained that rape victim. Similarly, while the police may need to determine which parish, division or area ultimately has responsibility for a case, there ought to be mechanisms for the completion and handover of preliminary work by those who arrive first at a potential crime scene so that other families do not have to suffer "the distress and the anguish" of the Moxams.